Eighteen months after one of the most famous plays in NFL history — the run and duck, dodge and chuck to a man who caught the ball with his helmet like Fred Biletnikoff sans stickum, the careers of the two key participants in that championship-altering play couldn’t be heading in more different directions.
The guy who threw the ball has signed a six-year, $97.5 million contract extension. The guy who caught the ball is, by all appearances, in danger of being cut.
So while the New York Giants arguably aren’t showing much gratitude to receiver David Tyree, they’re arguably showing way too much of it to quarterback Eli Manning.
Really, what has Eli done to deserve an average annual take of $15.2 million over the next seven years? His career passer rating falls south of 80 points, at 76.1. With receiver Plaxico Burress gone for good, that number might go even lower in 2009.
What we can’t understand is why the Giants didn’t simply wait another year to see what Manning will do with a receiving corps that conjures memories of the relative no-names who were snagging darts from Tom Brady pre-2007. Manning’s brother, Peyton, signed his long-term deal after the expiration of his rookie contract, at a time when the franchise tag could have been applied to him. So why not let 2009 play itself out and, if all else fails, slap the exclusive version of the franchise tag on Eli in 2010?
If nothing else, the Giants would have been guaranteed that Manning would be going all out this year to drive up his value. As it now stands, maybe he’ll now lose a little of his edge in 2009, given that he has finally cashed in with a record-setting deal.
Think back to November 2007. After a woeful, four-interception performance against the Vikings, whispers were becoming murmurs that the Giants had kept the wrong quarterback on Draft Day 2004, and that Eli might never be nearly as good as Peyton.
Somehow, the Giants turned things around, made it to the postseason, and finagled four straight wins in close, hard-fought playoff games. The unlikely accomplishment made Eli the toast of New York, prompting the media and the fans to forget the fact that Manning’s full-season passer rating had been a Kordellian 73.9.
So it hardly has been established that Eli Manning is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. In our view, he trails Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Donovan McNabb. [UPDATE: And Drew Brees.]
Soon, Matt Ryan might leapfrog the Eli. And the Jets have a rookie quarterback who could soon capture the imagination of New Yorkers both with high-end play and a personality that looks to be a lot spicier than Manning’s aw-shucks Milquetoast shtick.
Bottom line? The Giants could have broken the bank for Eli Manning after the coming season just as dramatically as they did it today. Given the full range of Eli’s career, it might have been prudent to let him prove that he’s more like the guy who showed up in January and February 2008 — and less like the guy we’ve seen for most of the rest of his career.