Eli Manning, Super Bowl Champion. Eli Manning, Super Bowl MVP. Yep, get used to it.
Don’t look now, but Eli Manning just may be the reincarnation of Joe Namath. How, you ask? Let’s go to the stats.
Both went into the Super Bowl as huge underdogs
Both won Super Bowl MVP’s in their fourth year while playing for a New York team
Both were the antithesis of the quarterback at the time of winning their respective their Super Bowls
Oh yeah, and both were No. 1 draft picks (Eli in 2003, Joe Willie in the 1964 AFL draft)
The statistics speak for themselves, but the thesis that both quarterbacks were the antithesis of the quarterback in their respective eras needs some backing up. In 1969, Joe Namath was a young, brash, outspoken quarterback guaranteeing victory over the daunting Baltimore Colts. The Guarantee is still looked at today as one of the boldest pregame declarations ever made. Joe Namath’s loud persona didn’t fit with the grittiness of Johnny Unitas or the efficiency of Len Dawson. In short, Namath stuck out like the Patriots’ head coach at Nordstrom.
It’s 2008 and things done changed. No longer is the prototypical NFL quarterback expected to take a five-step drop, survey the field and hit the No. 1 receiver. Now it’s okay for the quarterback to scramble, to improvise. Brett Favre can flip it underhanded if that’s what it takes just as much as Vince Young can tuck it and break off a 30 yard-run on a regular basis. Granted, there’s still a huge value on the traditional quarterback – look at the success of Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Byron Leftwich and you can even go back to someone like a Dan Marino. But you don’t have to be the traditional dropback passer to succeed today, just ask someone like Jake Plummer, who I’d like to still see playing today.
It’s expected today for the quarterback to be the leader of the team and usually the preferred style of leadership is either yelling or butting heads a la Tom Brady. Granted, the quarterback has always been the leader, but that’s not even enough these days. Nowadays we expect our quarterback to have some charisma, some personality. They have to be able to pull of a Campbell’s Soup or Gatorade ad in the offseason and they can score even more points if they can hook up with a female of equal or greater celebrity status. Tony Romo has successfully completed all of the above, but still has yet to win a playoff game.
Enter Eli Manning. His calm personality comes across as dull as Channing Crowder on an IQ test. Throws an interception? Blank stare maybe followed by a handclap. Throws a touchdown? Blank stare maybe followed by a handclap. Eli’s not getting into screaming matches with opposing fans or going to be eluding defenders like the Juice avoids jail.
And what about the commercials? All we get from Eli is him on the receiving end of a wet willie courtesy of big bro Peyton during a tour of the ESPN offices? That’s it? No yawning for Coca Cola and no singing for American Idol?
Instead, Eli quietly works on the fundamentals, learns how to stay cool under pressure and it all eventually pays off in an upset of, dare we say, epic proportions.
Eli Manning is the antithesis of the NFL quarterback in 2008 just as Joe Willie Namath was the antithesis of the AFL/NFL quarterback in 1969.
Now all we need is for Eli to get close enough to lick Pam Oliver.
And I never want to be the guy that says, “I told you so.” I hate that guy and I never want to be him, but this is probably the one and only time I’m going to pull that card. Well, at least for now.
Flashback to the August 24, 2007 column with this gem on Eli Manning: “If this dude is not the most feared quarterback in the post-Michael Vick NFL then I don’t know who is.”
Don’t forget how close the Giants came to beating the Pats in Week 17. While the Giants clearly did not have a perfect regular season, they also play in the most physically demanding conference in the league in the NFC East. If the Giants were to move to the AFC East and got to play the Dolphins, Bills and Jets twice a year as opposed to having to play the Cowboys, Redskins and Eagles twice a year, they’d look a lot better on paper too.
Just from reading various write-ups from some of the writers out there, one thing really needs to be clarified – the Giants didn’t steal anything from the Patriots. The Giants played hard for 60 minutes, coming up big both on offense and defense. The Giants played with more intensity, more desire and more intelligence. They didn’t give up when they could have and they didn’t get too frustrated when things weren’t looking good. The Giants didn’t steal anything. They delivered a solid beatdown of the Patriots that not even all Giants fans believed they could do.
Just to get a quick head count, how many Giants fans actually believed we would beat the Pats? There’s a loyal legion of fans who really knew and then there’s the group that saw the Giants were doing okay at halftime so they went to their closet in search of something blue. I guess then they came out of the closet…
And what kind of a dance was Randy Moss doing after his touchdown? It looked like a cross between a waterless synchronized swimming tryout and Soulja Boy. I wouldn’t be proud of doing either one by itself, let alone a hybrid of the two.
Sad to say but stylistically, that wasn’t even the worst moment for the Pats. How about Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau showing how much they loved playing in the Super Bowl by hugging each other so tightly that not even Bill Belichick’s integrity could have slid through. I bet those two are watching the highlights in their matching tracksuits while sipping pina coladas and wishing they didn’t out themselves during the most-watched Super Bowl ever.
And it’s cool to give Eli praise, but without a great supporting cast on offense and a defense that did what no other defense could do to the Patriots all season, Bill Belichick would have the Vince Lombardi Trophy outfitted in a matching poncho and a case of blank videocassettes. If you’re having trouble picturing this, just picture those creepy guys on To Catch a Predator times 10. Can you say, “Action!”?
10 Things Patriots fans said last night and are still probably saying this morning
10. That’s the last time we let Tiki give us advice before a game
9. They can take our perfect season but they can never take our clam chowda
8. Tom Coughlin and Chris Snee both came from Boston College, so in a way, it is kind of a great day for Boston sports
7. I’m still not really convinced that Eli is a good quarterback. I’m just waiting for that “it” moment
6. Tom Brady has better teeth than Michael Strahan
5. We could have been perfect, but the thought of being “welcomed to the mountain” by Mercury Morris, Larry Csonka and Don Shula was just far too disturbing to actually go through with it
4. At least by leaving the field before the game was even over we got a good jump on the gameday traffic
3. Less than 60 days ‘til Spring Training
2. Our quarterback is still boinking Gisele
1. I bet Tom Coughlin wasn’t asked to help on the new Girls Gone Wild: Creepy Old Man Voyeur Edition like our coach was
As the great Johnny Drama would say, “Victoryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”