Eli Manning isn’t elite, and I don’t care

The Giants lost on Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons, 34-0. Horrible, horrible, horrible, blah, blah, blah. Thanks to a brutal collapse by the Chicago Bears, the Giants can still clinch a playoff birth with two wins in their final two games.

The loss was mostly due to two problems. The first was awful pass defense. Matt Ryan wasn’t put under enough pressure, and it showed. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 270 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. With the problems the Giants have in the secondary (Prince Amukamara was out with a hamstring injury, Kenny Phillips has missed more than half the season with knee problems), they need to have a solid pressure to have any sort of success defending the pass. They got that pressure against Green Bay and New Orleans. It wasn’t there against Atlanta.

The second problem was passing offense. The Giants actually beat the Falcons in the ground game by more than one yard per carry, but Eli and company’s aerial attack couldn’t do nearly enough to keep up with Atlanta. Manning threw a pair of dreadful first half interceptions that bascially spotted the Falcons 10 points. On top of that, the Atlanta secondary smothered Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz for more or less the entire game. Domenik Hixon catching five passes for 80 yards is great for Domenick Hixon, but it’s not a great sign for New York’s offense.

So, yeah that covers most of what went wrong. The Giants will be better in Baltimore this week. Plus, the only reason they got shut out (besides the Lawrence Tynes terrible field goal miss) was because Tom Coughlin put his offense on the field on fourth down instead of giving up with token field goal tries. Good for him; you always have to play to win the game.

Anyway, the thing I was trying to get to was that Eli Manning isn’t an elite quarterback. He’s not in the same class as Tom Brady or Petyon Manning, and it’s mostly because of this darn interceptions that have plagued him his whole career and will likely continue to show up in the future. Just look at the interception percentage from the last three seasons for Eli Manning and Brady.

Brady
2010: 0.8%, 2011: 2.0%, 2012: 1.1%

Eli Manning
2010: 4.6%, 2011: 2.7%, 2012: 3.1%

The numbers aren’t really close. Manning has led the league in interceptions twice. In 2010, he threw 25 picks, and 2007 he tossed 20. Brady has never thrown as many as 15 interceptions in a season, and he has two 16-game seasons in which he’s thrown less than 10. If Brady throws less than four picks in his last two games, he’ll be able to add another less-than-10 interception season to his resume.

This season, Manning has mixed in some brilliant games with some duds. Against Pittsburgh, he completed just 42 percent of his passes. In Atlanta he threw for 161 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. Against Cincinnati, Manning was similarly awful. Even when he threw for 510 yards versus Tampa Bay, he also tossed a season-high three picks that jeopardized the game.

Eli Manning is not elite because he’s not consistent. He’s not elite, because year after year, he’s not as good as the best quarterback in the league. The good news is that Manning does not need to be “elite” for the Giants to win the Super Bowl. He just needs to make a couple of plays, protect the ball, and be assisted by a great defense. That puts him in the same class as Ben Roethlisberger. It’s not where many Giants fans want Manning to be, but as long as he’s good enough to win a title, that’s fine with me.

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