Did Eli Manning Fail, or Did the Giants?
Updated: Jan 23
ESPN's Adam Schefter said it best, "Hall of Famers are players you can't write the history of the game without; Eli qualifies."
Two Super Bowl MVPs qualify for a gold jacket in Canton. Whether or not Eli Manning deserves to go in on the first ballot does not matter.
Manning is a shoo-in for Canton and everyone knows it, so why make him wait after his first year of eligibility? Because he finished his final three seasons 8-26 and failed to make the playoffs the last six out of seven years? Stop it. For the last 16 years, Eli Manning has embodied what a New York legend is all about, the same as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Stop with the "It was a lucky catch" when referencing David Tyree and the greatest upset in sports history against the 18-0 New England Patriots. "The scramble" is one of the greatest plays in football history by itself, even without the helmet catch part.
The part of that play that always gets forgotten is the fact that Eli looked like he going to get body-slammed on the ground before he scrambled out of the pile and completed the pass to Tyree. If Eli didn't stay on his feet the miraculous helmet catch would have never happened.
Four years later against the same team in the same game, Manning once again had one of the best throws you'll ever see to Mario Manningham in another Super Bowl game-winning drive against the greatest QB ever, Tom Brady.
Now the Giants will give the throne to Daniel Jones who many people label as Manning 2.0. The Giants have one winning season since their 2012 Super Bowl win. In that one winning season (2016) former Giants GM Jerry Reese spent over $200 million to revamp the defense and it worked. The defense was No. 2 in the NFL and they led the Giants back to the playoffs. However, the Giants failed to score more than 27 points that season. When they did, it was against the 1-15 Cleveland Browns.
Under scrutiny, Big Blue took Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick to become Manning's successor. The Giants are coming off 3-13 and 5-11 seasons.
At this point in Manning's career, he is a stabilizer, not an elevator. The Giants are a rebuilding team with an abysmal defense. By the time the Giants are ready to win Manning will be 40-years-old. The time is now to start grooming Jones and start looking towards the next 10-15 years just as the Giants did in 2005 when they benched Kurt Warner, another Hall of Fame QB, for Eli.
Manning has played 16 years in the NFL and has cracked the top 10 in touchdown passes, throwing yards, and is No. 12 for QB wins in NFL history. All of the people in front of him on those lists are no-doubt Hall of Famers, so why isn't Eli?
Eli Manning started 210 consecutive games, second in NFL history to Brett Farve. That streak would have not ended if Ben Mcadoo did not bench Manning in Week 13 of the 2017 season for Geno Smith. Mcadoo and GM Jerry Reese were both fired the Monday following that game.
That benching should add to Manning's legacy. He handled it with class, as he always has. Mcadoo offered to start Manning only to keep the streak alive and Manning rejected because he felt there was no point in starting only to keep a streak alive. Anyone on the face of the earth knows that Manning should have not been benched for Geno Smith.
If Manning never starts again he will finish his career with a .500 record (116-116). The fact that he's not under .500 is miraculous. Not including his rookie year, Manning never had a losing record in his career before 2013. There were times early in his career where he looked great but the team faltered down the stretch.
In 2008 Manning and the Giants had an 11-1 record and looked like they were headed for a second straight Super Bowl. However, star WR Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in a nightclub and the Giants went 2-5 to finish the season before being knocked out the divisional round of the playoffs at home against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2009 the G-men started 5-0 for the first time since 1990, a year they won the Super Bowl. Once again things were looking up until they finished the season with a 3-8 and missed the playoffs. Manning threw for over 4,000 yards for the first time in his career and set a career-high in touchdowns (27).
2010 will forever be tainted by the image of DeSean Jackson running a game-winning punt return into the end zone after the Giants blew a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter. The following week Big Blue could have still clinched a postseason berth with a Week 16 win in Green Bay. They lost 45-17 dropped out of the playoff picture once again.
Many pinned the 2010 collapse on Manning because he led the NFL with 25 interceptions. However, only 14 were directly on him. Manning set a career-high in completion percentage (62.9) and touchdowns (31). The Giants defense was ranked 17th that year and they gave up a combined 83 points in two games they needed to win to get into the postseason.
After the 2012 Super Bowl, everything surrounding Manning would go downhill. The Giants organization that was once regarded as the gold standard for stability would go into disarray.
The offensive line that once consisted of Shaun O'Hara, David Diehl and Giants Ring of Honor member Chris Snee came to an end. Manning has not had a good offensive line since.
After Brandon Jabobs and Ahmad Bradshaw retired the Giants rushing game never recovered until Saquon Barkley. The Giants filled the void with Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Paul Perkins, Orleans Darkwa and David Wilson, the first-round pick who suffered a career-ending neck injury after two seasons in the NFL.
Manning never had a consistent Tight End to rely on. Jake Ballard was finished with the Giants right after the Super Bowl win. Martellus Bennett lasted one year (2012) and Will Tye, Larry Donell, and Daniel Fells did not move the needle.
Manning always had a solid receiving core with Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and yes Reuben Randle did the job as a No. 3 option for a little while. However, a depleted offensive line, lackluster tight ends and a mediocre rushing attack would never allow Manning to get over the hump again.
Since midway through the 2012 season, Manning has compiled a 41-64 record. Any other QB would have lost his job before it got to that point. But we aren't talking about any other QB, we're talking about Eli Manning, a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who after his second championship never was given the right tools to compete for a third.
In the end, father time always wins, but we'll always have the two greatest memories of any Giants fan's life. Thank you, Eli.