In the earlier part of his career the words “best”, “quarterback”, “passing”, “in the NFL” would generally not be used to describe Eli Manning and his progression to becoming the “Best Passing Quarterback in the NFL”. Of course this doesn’t come without a raised eyebrow or speculation, especially with big brother Peyton, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and even newcomers Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers and Mark Sanchez, still in the league.
I’m obviously kidding about one of the newcomers…Rivers.
Eli has always been seen as a shlub, riding on the coattails of his older brother’s successes and having his name only being used in the quarterback battle as a punch line. This writer, as recent as 2010, would also snicker and poke fun at Giants fans for cheering on a two-bit quarterback who will be replaced by the ever more talented, David Carr or Jared Lorenzen.
And now I must tuck my tail between my legs and admit I was wrong. The Eli Manning experiment has proven my initial feeling flawed and now he must, yes must, be included in the upper echelon of Quarterbackdom (that’s a trademark, don’t steal it). Besides the two Super Bowl championships he has won, that’s more than his brother by the way, Eli has progressed and grown each year with his best coming in the 2011-12 season just missing the 5,000 passing yards mark by a mere 67 yards. Reaching that mark would have put him with elite quarterbacks Brees, Stafford and Brady, pretty good company if you ask me.
Peyton. Probably the best quarterback my generation has ever seen, mostly due to just missing out on Montana and Young in our formidable years. His name is his resume, everyone, even passive fans, know who he is and know what he is about. Certainly there would be no argument who got the better genes in the Manning family out of the 3, yeah there is another one that no one cares about, nope not even Archie. Yet in the spotlight, outside of TV commercials and endorsements, Peyton seemed to fade, not to mention he also had one of the best recieving cores and front line in the business with the likes of Jeff Saturday, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and the irreplaceable Dallas Clark. Those names beg the questions though, who really lifted who? Honestly, it was probably a collaborative effort where highly skilled individuals brought each other up to super-stardom.
There is no doubt Peyton is a Hall of Fame quarterback, but so is Eli. No one wants to debate it because Peyton is clearly the favorite and without a doubt the better Manning, or is he?
The biggest factor against Eli is that, whether it was the teams choice or how the Giants were structured at the time, he didn’t have a 4,000 yard season until his 6th season, where Peyton hit that mark in his 2nd. That can be circumstance and coaching and also the format of the team, of course. Another reason to quiet that concern is with Eli beginning his career in 2004-05 we were right in the midst of the running back takeover, where teams were running more and an unproven QB may not get the chance to throw as much. That is all speculation, I will admit that.
Peyton was also gifted with, arguably, the best offensive line in the history of the NFL. As of today Peyton has a 1.1 sacks per game average, where Eli sits at 1.6. Through 8 seasons, the amount of time Eli has been with the Giants, Peyton was still at 1.2 sacks per game. It may not seem like a big difference, but it is and that means the pass rush was getting to Eli more often even on the times he wasn’t sacked. And we all know how Eli did in his early years when the pocket collapsed around him, may as well have been hunting season with wingless ducks the way the ball fluttered in the air and into the waiting arms of an outside linebacker.
Now that this debate is in your head I will make the case for each player in the following days providing evidence to support each player and leaving it up to you on who the better brother Manning truly is.