If we based this discussion entirely upon last night's game in Dallas, the answer would be simple:
Against a fast and talented Cowboys' defense, Eli went 25-of-38 for 330 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also engineered the Giants' game-winning drive in the final two minutes, showcasing poise, accuracy, and confidence in his ability.
Tony Romo, on the other hand, had a rough night. The Giants brought consistent pressure with their front line (as they've been known to do), and Romo was constantly moving around to avoid the rush. Still, the Cowboys' offensive line held up pretty well given the circumstances, and there are no excuses for Romo in this one. He went 13-of-29 for just 127 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Yikes. It wasn't pretty.
So Eli was obviously the better man last night. But let's broaden our horizons a bit, and take a look at the big picture. First, their styles...
Eli Manning is a classic pocket quarterback, in the ideological mold of guys like Carson Palmer, his brother Peyton, and Tom Brady. Eli delivers the ball with solid, upright mechanics, and he understands how to move within the pocket to avoid oncoming rushers. He prepares extremely well for the opposition, often recognizing schemes and making the proper audible adjustments.
Eli's biggest weakness is that he totally loses it at times. The best quarterbacks can have a tough day at the office and still make enough plays to pick up a win for their team, but when Eli goes in the tank, he drowns. When it starts to spiral out of control, it continues spiraling until the Giants have little choice but to take the loss. The good news is, as Eli has aged and matured as a quarterback, those forgettable performances have spaced themselves out. He's gained positive consistency over time.
In the other corner of the ring, Tony Romo is far from a classic pocket quarterback. Romo loves to use his above-average lateral quickness to make plays on the move, and this can be both a blessing and a curse. When Romo is on, he extends plays with his feet and allows time for his receivers to gain separation down the field. Once that separation is gained, he delivers the ball on time and it all comes together nicely. However, when he's off, he extends plays and then forces passes when there's nothing there.
Romo is very difficult to analyze and rank. Last year he threw for 3,448 yards and 26 touchdowns despite missing three games due to injury, and he completed over 61 percent of his passes in the process. At 61.3 percent, he was a full percentage point ahead of Eli at 60.3 percent.
But here's the thing: that number is misleading. Eli brings a consistent approach to each and every game, and while he may not have as many jaw-dropping statistical performances as Romo, you pretty much know what to expect from him. This in contrast to Romo, who can go for 350 yards and three touchdowns, and then 130 yards and three interceptions the very next week.
And then of course, there's the postseason. Eli has the Super Bowl ring and MVP trophy to go with it, while Romo hasn't won a single playoff game since taking over as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Eli's Giants beat Romo's Cowboys in their only head-to-head playoff battle.
And yet, we know that the successes and failures of entire franchises can't be attributed to one player. Yes quarterback is one of the most important positions in all of sports (if not the most important), but Eli Manning wasn't the only reason the Giants won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Tony Romo wasn't the only reason why the Cowboys fell short of the postseason last year.
So in the end, it comes down to personal preference. Who would you rather have, the quarterback who comes prepared, stays within himself and contributes to the "team" atmosphere, or the gunslinger who can single-handedly win or lose games for you? The quarterback who rarely makes you say "Wow" with his statistics, or the one who can blow you away with his numbers? The quarterback with a history of winning, or the one who still has plenty to prove?
Well as far as I'm concerned, I'm taking the guy who gives me the best chance to win consistently -- and right now, that's Eli Manning. I wouldn't put him with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger or Kurt Warner yet, but he's definitely somewhere in the top 10. And hey, I can't ignore the Super Bowl ring.
I just can't.
("JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular
general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores
throughout the U.S. Also, check out John on Twitter.)