Eli-mania has to stop.
Eli Manning led one of the most memorable drives in Super Bowl history, but that doesn't mean he's a top-five quarterback. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, calling the signals for a Super Bowl team is not necessarily a litmus test for greatness.
Several quarterbacks have led their teams to championshps in recent years and quickly had career downturns. Ben Roethlisberger fell off his motorcycle and his pedestal in a matter of months after leading the Steelers to a title. Brad Johnson faded quickly in Tampa Bay. And Trent Dilfer wasn't even asked back after leading the Ravens to a championship and being undefeated as a starter. Even Kurt Warner's brilliant career did a 180 a few years after the Rams won their only Super Bowl.
Like Roethlisberger, Johnson and Dilfer, Manning has a Super Bowl ring because of his defense. Before the playoffs started, you couldn't realistically rank Manning among the NFL's top 15 quarterbacks. As impressive as Eli was in the postseason, jumping him up to the top five is ludicrous.
Manning ranked 29th in the NFL in completion percentage and tied for the league lead in interceptions (20) this season. He does have good excuses. His receivers dropped a lot of balls, his line took time to jell and the Giants didn't unveil secret weapon Ahmad Bradshaw until the final weeks of the season.
But Manning is the first one to admit he has to become more consistent. There's no guarantee that because of this Super Bowl he'll continue to play mistake-free football in 2008. Where does Eli rank among NFL QBs? I'd take these 10 guys over him for 2008:
- Tom Brady
- Peyton Manning
- Tony Romo
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Drew Brees
- David Garrard
- Carson Palmer
- Brett Favre
- Derek Anderson
- Matt Hasselbeck
If his health wasn't always in question, I'd be tempted to take Donovan McNabb over Eli as well. McNabb's numbers skyrocketed in '07 when his knee got healthy, and remember, the Eagles' receivers are terrible.
The Giants are listed as 25:1 odds to repeat as champion - behind the Pats, Colts, Chargers, Cowboys and Steelers. That strikes me as jut a bit optimistic. Key veterans are getting old, several offensive stars have been injury-prone, Jeremy Shockey has to come back next season and mess with Eli's confidence, and they'll play with a target on their backs next year. Manning will have his great games -- like his regular-season performances against New England and Dallas. But I don't think we've seen the end of Eli's multiple-interception games, like his meltdown against the Vikings.
Let me know where you think Eli belongs in the list of top NFL quarterbacks ...