Palladino: Looking At Eli Manning In A New Light

‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.”

For all who laughed, or even shrugged it off as a predictable show of bravado when Eli Manning proclaimed himself an “elite“ quarterback before the season, it’s time to hunker down to a nice helping of urban bird.

This writer will join you at the table, maybe even fight for seconds, for it has long been held in this space that Manning was simply an above-average quarterback. Top 10 certainly, but not up there with the likes of his brother, Peyton, or Tom Brady or Drew Brees.

Well, guess what?

It’s time to hang that elite tag on him.

Oh, sure, we’re a little late to the party. Manning’s teammates have long considered him high on that scale. But it took this late run of regular-season and playoff games to lure in those who regard labels like “elite” and “Hall-of-Fame ready” with the greatest of caution.

Arriving here was no easy task. For one thing, Manning doesn’t make it easy to revere his accomplishments. Though he’s always respectful and upbeat in interviews, he says little, especially in the way of self-promotion. He gives up nothing while trumpeting the company lines of team, perseverance, and patience.

Though all of that goes to defining an interview subject decidedly in want of a color besides beige, none of it has anything to do with being or acting like an elite quarterback.

What does is what Manning did against San Francisco.

He led. He hung in there. He stood tall as the Niners tried their best to bury him.

As the biggest conference championship audience since 1995 watched Sunday night, Manning took a whopping 18 hits, six of which resulted in sacks. And it’s not hard to believe that most of them were not the wrap-up variety, not with a pass-rusher like Justin Smith banging him around for a sack and four hits.

But Manning, always a tough nut, popped up and kept slinging — a Giants postseason record 58 times, and managed to complete 32 of them.

Perhaps most impressive were two completions that ultimately went for little yardage. One came on the Giants’ final series of regulation when, with linebacker Aldon Smith a hair from dumping him for a sack, he found Ahmad Bradshaw open on the side for a 4-yard gain. It didn’t amount to much, but it showed a calm and calculated nature. Manning knew exactly who was going to be open, and he got it there to avoid major damage.

The other happened in the third quarter, a little shovel pass to Brandon Jacobs that went for two yards but allowed Manning to avoid a sack inside his own 25.

Awareness of where his receivers are. That’s what elite quarterbacks have.

Physical toughness. The great ones have that, too.

Mental toughness. They keep going after it, as Manning did in completing better than 50 percent of his passes despite being under siege almost every time he dropped back.

And does anybody really need to bring up yet another two-minute drill, a slice of time Manning has seemingly claimed as his own? He got the ball back with 1:36 left in the first half, and by the time he was done finding Victor Cruz for 15, 11, 17, and 14 yards, he’d positioned his team for a go-ahead field goal that left just two seconds on the clock.

The great ones are deadly in the two-minute period. In today’s game, nobody commands the two-minute drill better than Eli Manning.

Put it all together, and Super Bowl XLVI will feature not one, but two genuinely elite quarterbacks in Brady and Manning. And right now, Manning is playing at just as high a level, if not higher, than Brady.

After all, Brady has thrown three picks in the last two games alone, while Manning has thrown one interception in his last four.

That, too, marks him as elite.

Enjoy the plateful of crow, doubters.

And yeah, save a seat.

Do you consider Eli among the elite? Make your case in the comments below…

  • jay

    class act Lou-grow up.

  • joe soap

    A class act, almost “egoless” and a winner. ELi is one of the reasons I ma proud to associate myself with one of the classiest organizations anywhere. Thank you to the Maras and all the extended NYG family for your commitment and resolve. It’s refreshing to have something to believe in.

  • MHH @ somerset

    The reason we love Eli is for the same reason America loved Gary Cooper; soft on the outside (“Aw shucks”) but cool and hard under pressure……

  • j. Caballero

    The shades of Y.A. Title has been back with the Giants since Super Bowl 2007/2008.
    Hanged the IROM MAN label to ELI also beside ELIte.
    He is the best of the best and he will show it this coming Super Bowl.
    The Giants owners Mr.Tish and Mara better get ready to buy a new set rings for this Giants Squad.
    Do not forget how bless we are with Coach Goughlin.
    He dream the game plan and ELIte Eli deliveres.
    The odd Couple together……
    EAT your hart out “Dallas, PHILI and the Specially The NY Jets””
    See all of you next year, because this is just the begining for a along time for all of you Easter Division Teams to eat CROW.
    Mr. Jerry Rees thank you for Pierre Paul and Victor Cruz.
    Giant fan since 1960. “Once a New Yorker always a New Yoker.
    How sweet it is to be a Giant Fan. GO BIG BLUE.
    Cordially, J.C.S.S. Miami, Florida

  • Peyton Manning

    Eli if you are reading this please call or text me back….My necks hurts and I could use your soft touch and rotating applicator sauce

  • adcesq

    He’s in rarified air now. I love it. The question is how long can he stay there before life – age or injury – changes things. To the young I say life and time waits for nobody, strive every moment because nothing is guaranteed or forever! Seize life! One more hard one men, make it your best yet. It’s going to be hard but find a way and bring it home. Know that even for that one fleeting moment of greatness, your an inspiration to millions, Enjoy!! and Go Big Blue! Loyal Giants Fan Age 45.

  • PinstripeBlue

    there is a sense of superficiality in the sports media in terms physical looks. eli is much less “tough looking” than his brother peyton and brady… and in conscious/subconscious sports macho-ism , that meant more scrutiny. eli’s talent as a quarterback has always been there, what eli has shown in this post season run is his maturity and mental toughness that is radiating. those qualities is now so powerful that critics can’t just ignore them. go blue!

  • blic

    you cannot spell ELITE without ELI.

  • lou_KC

    The media seem to think Eli Manning is not charismatic or boring, mostly, because he hurts their own fragile egos when he simply ignores them. The fans see Eli. Kids, especially, see Eli. They see someone who gets beat down and made fun of (for no reason at all), but keeps getting up. Someone who loves his team-mates, doesn’t yell at them (like Brady) and is a great leader. My kids LOVE Eli. When I ask them why, they say it’s because he inspires them.

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