NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when Eli Manning wasn’t as beloved among Giants fans.

Manning, like Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, took plenty of lumps during his first three seasons in the Big Apple pressure cooker. But that all changed when Big Blue won the Super Bowl in Manning’s fourth year.

Sanchez said last month he’s out to have an Eli-esque season No. 4. It won’t be easy after a third-year regression and with backup sensation Tim Tebow looming on the sideline, but Manning likes what he sees from the Jets starter.

“I’ve definitely kept up with Mark and how things are going,” he told the New York Daily News. “I think Mark is a good quarterback and he’s played well. It’s kind of like that in New York — things don’t always go smoothly every year. Last year was a tough year. The two previous years he played great. I think he’s got a lot of upside to him and will be a good quarterback for a long time in the league.”

Though Sanchez led the Jets to two consecutive AFC Championship games in his rookie and sophomore years, last year’s disappointing 8-8 finish is still a fresh wound for Jets fans. Not that it’s Super Bowl or bust for Sanchez, but there’s no denying the heat is on.

The stats for Sanchez and Manning are remarkably similar through their first three seasons. Exhibit A: matching quarterback ratings of 73.2.

In 47 games, the Jets starter recorded 9,209 yards, 55 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. Manning had 8,049 yards, 54 touchdowns and 44 interceptions in 41 games.

The difference was in the playoffs, where Sanchez had four playoff wins — all on the road — to Manning’s two losses.

Of course, Manning is now a two-time Super Bowl champion and took the MVP award in both games. If Sanchez wants to stay on Eli’s career path, he has his work cut out for him.

“They got stuff going on offensively, new receivers and different things going on,” Manning told the Daily News. “He’s a young, talented guy. The longer you give a guy to have success — obviously he’s won playoff games and done a lot of good things, played in AFC Championship Games. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

Are you with Manning on this one? Be heard in the comments below!

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