After leading the Giants' to a dramatic 37-20 win over the heavily favored Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, January 16th, Eli Manning is in prime position to do something only 10 quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have done before: win more than one Super Bowl.
But regardless of whether or not the Giants take home this year's trophy in Indianapolis, a victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers has already confirmed one thing about Eli Manning: he deserves to be recognized as an "elite" NFL quarterback. And the one guy who knew this all along? Eli Manning.
Manning was, not surprisingly, met with heavy doses of skepticism after his pre-season affirmation that he considers himself in the same class as the league's elite signal callers like Tom Brady. Four years ago, he was on top of the world when his Giants stunned the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. But New York has only made the playoffs one time since, when they lost the divisional round in 2008. Eli Manning has been criticized for not showing the same emotion as his brother, Colts star-quarterback Peyton Manning, and throwing an exorbitant number of interceptions. While at first glance this may not resemble the resume of an elite quarterback, digging a little deeper proves otherwise.
Eli Manning has thrown for 4,000+ yards in three straight seasons, including 4,933 this year, which is 233 more than his brother Peyton ever amassed. His 2011 stats rank among the best in the league, even in the NFL's unprecedented "year of the quarterback."
Manning may keep his emotions in check on the field, but he handles big-game pressure as well as any quarterback in the league. In the second biggest game of his career against the Packers on Sunday, Manning outplayed the league's probable MVP, Aaron Rodgers, by throwing for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the weeks leading up to that, he played the best football of his career and led the Giants to four straight must-win victories. Not one, but two of the biggest upsets in recent NFL history have featured Manning as an underdog quarterback. Eli embraced the challenge both times by prevailing as the most influential player on the field.
Is Eli Manning the greatest quarterback in the NFL? No. But he is among the top five, of which only two others (Drew Brees and Tom Brady) are still in contention to win the Super Bowl. Manning will probably continue to play in the shadows of big brother Peyton and a handful of other superstar quarterbacks, but in my book, Sunday's win over the Green Bay Packers was about as elite as it gets.
Joe is a longtime Giants fan from New Jersey.