While I was watching this past weekend's Seahawks-Giants game at my friend's apartment, one of the guys there said "Eli is a below-average quarterback". At the time, the Giants were getting pistol-whipped by Charlie Whitehurst and Doug Baldwin, so I didn't say anything, but it got me thinking. If Eli is below-average, which current starting quarterback in the league would I rather have? When the Giants were down 4 late in the 4th quarter, there was no question in my mind that Eli could win the game on a last minute drive (granted, we were playing the Seahawks). We got all the way down to the Seahawks' 6 yard line and it was a fluke slip and interception off the hand of Cruz that ended it. It was an unfortunate play in a game that was riddled with errors from both teams. However, I knew that if we got the ball back and were only down one score, Eli could lead a final drive. I understand that Eli is paid like an elite quarterback and expectations are high, but I think he's more than an average quarterback. He's performed very well in the playoffs and when the game is on the line. If I had to list out current 2011 starting quarterbacks and where I would rank them in comparison to Manning, it would go like this:
1) Tom Brady - Still the gold standard.
2) Aaron Rodgers - Will probably overtake Brady, but still pretty early in his career.
3) Drew Brees - An excellent QB and leader on and off the field.
4) Ben Roethlisberger - Only other person on this list to win multiple SBs, probably a terrible human being, but knows how to win games.
5) Eli - I'm saying I would take Eli over anyone else below.
6) Philip Rivers - If you ask me if I would rather have Rivers, Merriman, and Kaeding (essentially what the Giants gave up to get Eli) or Eli, I would take Manning. Rivers has not taken the Chargers anywhere, even with the number of star players he's had on his team throughout his career. I know he's good statistically, but has he ever won a big game??
7) Michael Vick - Was amazing before going to prison, had a great 1st half last year, but has yet do prove himself in the playoffs.
8) Tony Romo - He's great when the games don't matter. However, it's becoming a pattern for him to find ways to lose games that go beyond coincidence.
9 - 11) Stafford, Newton, Freeman - Could these guys be really good some day? Maybe, but they haven't done enough to say that they more than just one year wonders.
12) Matt Schaub - Decent fantasy quarterback, but I do not feel comfortable with him in a big game situation.
13) Ryan Fitzpatrick - Showing great ability this year and excellent decision making, would love to see the Harvard man play a complete season.
14 - 18) Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Kevin Kolb - These guys have shown flashes, but there's also been plenty of regression this year. Everyone outside of Kolb plays on a good team with an excellent defense (You can argue the Bears aren't an excellent defense anymore, but whatever). I think someone like Flacco or Sanchez epitomizes "average quarterback"
19 - 24) Rex Grossman, Jason Campbell, Matt Cassel, Alex Smith, Tavaris Jackson, Matt Moore (Chad Henne, same thing) - I think we've seen enough from these guys to know that they aren't going to be stars in the NFL. If Eli was below average, you put him with this group of quarterbacks. I think that's a little harsh.
25 - 26) Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck - Placeholders on their respective teams, were very capable quarterbacks at one point of their careers.
27 - 32) Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert, Tim Tebow, Curtis Painter - It's probably too early to tell if any of these guys could be amazing, so will withhold judgment for now.
If Eli were "below average", would I really want Schaub or Culter over him? I don't think any Giants fan would. Okay, maybe you could want one of the young guns like Stafford or Newton or even Vick, but you don't have evidence to say they will continue to improve, stay healthy, and play well in the playoffs. No question Vick is a more talented athlete than Manning, but what has he done? Why do I want a guy who plays well in the regular season, but doesn't show up for the playoffs?
I can agree that Eli is not an "elite" quarterback, but there are 3, maybe 4 in the entire NFL. Not even team gets one. I just can't agree that you would rather take some of the guys who are currently starting in the NFL over Eli. Eli has played very well in a tough market, with plenty of criticism, and has risen above it. I just wish people would recognize that.