It's surprising how easy people have been on Eli Manning. His play has not lived up to his status on draft day 3 years ago, and yet people every where, not just Giant fans, make excuses for him. "He needs time to adjust to the league." "Playing in New York is harder than playing in other areas." "He can't be compared to his brother."
Eli is in his third year, and I think the time to adjust is over. How long of a grace period is this guy going to get? Carson Palmer sat out a year and had a good year in his first as a starter. The next year he was the second-best quarterback in the league. Philip Rivers, drafted the same day as Manning, sat out 2 years, and he's kicking ass in San Diego in his first season as a starter. Big Ben was drafted lower on draft day than both Rivers and Eli and he kicked ass in his first year. He won the Super Bowl his second. So why does Eli get such a long grace period? Is it because his last name is Manning?
New York is a tough media market. It can be very hard to adjust to the pressure of constant scrutiny. Just ask A-Rod if he's not too busy sitting in a corner weeping. Eli, however, hasn't faced that much scrutiny. Since he's part of football's royal family -- for all of you who thought that title went to the Hasselbecks, you're wrong -- he gets a reprieve. He's shown glimpses of good things last year, but nothing that would show that he's going to live up to his draft day legacy. If anything, he deserves more criticism than he receives.
Yes, it is tough being the brother of the best quarterback in the league. It's tougher than being Archie Manning's son because, frankly, Archie wasn't that good. However, the looming legend of his older brother has actually helped in settling the restless fans down. He may never be as good as his brother, but the fans know that and aren't expecting him to be. If Eli was just another quarterback, his performance would have Giant fans much angrier than they are today.
With all that is invested in Eli, the Giants are going to be willing to give him more and more time. You won't see him benched any time soon. You can make the excuse that some one like Rivers has a lot of great weapons -- LT is all you need -- and a great defense. That's true. Any quarterback is going to be better with LT. However, Carson Palmer didn't have a great defense. Maybe the Giants rushed Eli in too quickly. They didn't make the playoffs that year anyway, so they should have stuck with Kurt Warner and let Eli get his feet wet.
Eli is a decent quarterback. He's not good enough to warrant all that hype we put up with in the 2004 draft. Last year, Eli made some fourth quarter comebacks, but as of late, he's been screwing up when the big play is needed, last like night in Jacksonville. He does not look like he has confidence. Good quarterbacks have poise. Eli doesn't have that look. In the crucial situation, I would bet on him throwing an interception over a game-winning touchdown. And with the recent success of Rivers, who was part of that huge trade with San Diego on draft day, fans are going to have no choice but to question if Eli is for real. Should they have kept Rivers instead of trading away picks to the Chargers, one which lead to drafting Shawn Merriman? Eli's grace period is about to draw to a close if he doesn't turn things around soon. Will he be able to handle that New York media when they're suddenly not making excuses for him? That's something we should found out.