ESPN’s Jon Gruden gets picked on for excessive praise, but his appreciation for Eli Manning last night felt on point.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the 2009 Giants was that the defense wasted Manning’s best season. Mentioned on Sports Illustrated’s Most overrated list, we’d make the case it’s the opposite for the younger Manning at this stage of his career.
His accuracy has consistently improved (65% this year), his yards-per-attempt are up, and he’s far more consistent on a week-to-week basis. With Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, and Mario Manningham, the Giants are far more dangerous on offense then when they won the Super Bowl.
While listening to Gruden and Ron Jaworksi last night, I started to think: What quarterbacks would I rather have than Eli Manning?
Two years ago, a healthy Tony Romo would have made the list. He wouldn’t now, even before his clavicle injury. Here’s my list of guys I’d rather have running my offense over Eli Manning for this season only. Tell me where you disagree:
That’s it. Six guys. Matt Schaub is in the conversation, but falls short. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco continue to improve, but aren’t there quite yet. Even Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman could pass Manning eventually, but I’d still take Eli’s combination of experience and talent for 2010. Eli runs an offense; the younger guys are still learning it.
I don’t know what the definition of an “elite” quarterback is, but the No. 7 quarterback in the league sounds pretty close. Maybe it will take another Super Bowl appearance for Manning to get that sort of recognition. (The Giants certainly have a shot in this balanced NFC.)
This much I know: Eli Manning is a better player than when he got his ring.