Eli Manning has to be the most maligned two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback in NFL history. He’s the Rodney Dangerfield of Super Bowl MVPs. The NFL season is once again upon us, and while many are speculating what teams will have what it takes to get to the promised land of Glendale, Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX, others are pontificating and postulating on just how bad Eli will be. So, just how bad will Eli be this year? Unfortunately for Giants fan, we’re not talking about bad meaning good, but bad meaning bad. Really, really bad. How can the only quarterback to ever pass for more than 4,900 yards and win a Super Bowl in the same season be the brunt of so many bad jokes? Well, some of the blame for this constant criticism lies in his stats from the past two seasons. Since 2011, his passer rating has plummeted from 92.9, which was the second highest in his career, to 87.2 the following season down to a career low of 69.4 in 2013. Last season he also threw a career high 27 interceptions and 18 touchdowns, the fewest thrown since his rookie season in 2004.
If we were to simply go by the numbers it appears he has gone from being “The One” to “A complete bum” in a short period of time. Plausible, is it not? It’s not as if such a slide in production is unprecedented. But it’s usually due to age or injury. Longtime NFL fans only need recall the abysmal final seasons fielded by Hall of Famers Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins and Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys as examples of how quick a quarterback's demise can occur. But Eli is only 33 years old and isn’t suffering from any injuries, but three seasons without a playoff appearance has people jumping to wild conclusions. Perhaps the injury is between the ears? Though many hate to admit it, an athlete’s psyche can be a fragile thing. That can happen when your offensive line has all the countenance of a wet piece of bread. Eli was sacked 39 times last season, beating the previous high mark for getting grass in his teeth by nine sacks as defenses were able to get to him on 6.6 percent of his drop backs. Absolutely atrocious.
All the blame being placed on Eli Manning is a curious thing to be certain. After all, he can’t pass to himself, block for himself or hand the ball off to himself. Where’s the help? Victor Cruz has come alive since arriving as an unheralded rookie in 2010 but all the salsa dancing touchdown celebrations in the world could have helped Eli avoid sliding into the doldrums of mediocrity. His touchdown total went from 9 in 2011, to 10 in 2012 to four last year. Also, last season receiver Hakeem Nicks’ produced just enough to say he tried but still received criticism for not showing up offensively last season, catching 56 balls for 896 yards, but his lack of touchdowns was noticeable as was Cruz’s paltry touchdown tally. Lack of a rushing game placed added pressure on Eli and the Giant’s moribund offense to produce and they simply were not up to the task.
So far the New York Giants’ offense has looked less than stellar in the preseason as the team irons out the kinks as the team struggles to master offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense. The first team offense produced only one sustained touchdown drive and Manning and his receivers appeared out of sync, as he only completed 48.8 percent of his passes for 188 yards. With the Detroit Lions looming in the distance the Giants and their fans will learn whether the best quarterback in the history of their franchise is ready to lead his team back to the playoffs after a long drought or whether we will continue to witness the younger Manning press to make big plays to make up for lack of production elsewhere on the offense.