I’ve already started to hear it from Giants fans and feel like I need to clarify what I think the upcoming Super Bowl means for Eli Manning. To start, it means a lot more to Eli than it does to Tom Brady in terms of their respective legacies. Tom will go down as one of the best in NFL history regardless; for him this game is about getting some revenge and securing his legacy as the best quarterback ever. For Eli, this game is all about validation. He’s already won a Super Bowl, but every quarterback must back up the first win with a second to claim their spot in history. And everybody remembers the fashion in which the his first Super Bowl was won.
I’ve stated that if the final minute of the 2007 Super Bowl shook out a little differently, or if Asante Samuel could actually catch the ball, then Eli Manning would be considered something of a chump with a major interception problem. First off, I said that before the playoffs began this year when Eli hadn’t reeled off the wins he has already this postseason – wins that are obviously helping to build his resume. Before this season though, Eli had played in the playoffs four times. Aside from his Super Bowl season in 2007, Eli’s other three playoff appearances resulted in a 0-3 record with 1 touchdown, 6 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 54. As I said, without 2007 Eli is viewed as a chump.
I think that regardless of the outcome of this year’s Super Bowl, even the staunchest Eli-haters (me) will admit that he’s an improved quarterback, has shown he can do it in the 4th quarter, and he’s coming off his best season yet. There’s still plenty of issues with his game, but he’s not exactly the same Eli that we’ve been bashing for so long.
I don’t mean to trivialize the importance of the Super Bowl, I simply mean to say I think better of him already. But if he wants to take that next step, if he wants to actually make a name for himself, then he’s got the perfect opportunity in front of him on Super Bowl Sunday.