Every time Eli Manning gave a great performance, football pundits would speculate about whether it signaled a new level of his maturation or was merely an exceptional game that again indicated his immense potential. In his first four years, Manning exhibited a strong penchant for inconsistency not uncommon for young quarterbacks, but as his days of youthful inexperience dwindled, his tendency to mix great throws with awful misses or confounding interceptions began to look like the real Eli.
Eli Manning, of course, followed his famous father Archie (number two overall draft pick in 1971) and brother Peyton (number one overall draft pick in 1998) as the number one overall draft choice of San Diego in 2004. Except, a la John Elway in 1983, he announced before the draft that he would never play for the Chargers, and thus forced a trade to the Giants who coveted him. The Giants gave up their 2004 number one pick (quarterback Philip Rivers) as well as another number one pick, plus a third and a fifth, for
Manning’s rights. Before Super Bowl XLII, Giants fans wondered whether he was worth the high price.
From season to season, there was incremental improvement in Manning’s completion percentage and passer rating, but the maddening inconsistency of both quarterback and team continued. While his arm and ability were unquestioned, his quiet demeanor and somewhat lethargic personality bred doubt as to his eventual success. Before he died, quarterback guru Bill Walsh said that it was time for Eli to stop being Peyton’s little brother and become the Giants’ quarterback. It was time in 2007. In his fifth year, Phil Simms made a quantum leap forward and spent the next decade as a top NFL quarterback; Giants fans saw Manning make that leap in winning the title as Super Bowl MVP. Ultimately, it’s only in retrospect that we will know his historic rank among quarterbacks, but he has come of age. There will be times when he reverts to his skittish inaccuracy, but he scaled the NFL mountain in 2007.
Leading the late comeback against Philadelphia in 2006 was a major step in the maturation of quarterback Eli Manning.
He’s got a quiet demeanor and [he’s] shy, but [Manning will] spit in your face if you make him.
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The beautiful thing about football is that things can turn around in a hurry at any time in the strangest ways. The Giants won this game because Plaxico Burress was stripped of the ball in Eagles territory, and the ball bounced just right for them. When Brian Dawkins pried the ball loose, the closest player to it was Eagles safety Michael Lewis. Lewis fell on the ball at the 5. However, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe knocked Lewis off the ball, and it rolled into the end zone, where a hustling Tim Carter beat the Eagles’ Joselio Hanson to the ball.
Burress said, I told Tim Carter I owe him a steak dinner, lobster, a glass of merlot something. It’s probably one of the best fumbles I’ve ever had.”
The 6-2 Giants met the 7-1 Eagles midway through the 1961 season in a game for first place in the East; it was a game of spectacularly designed plays and lucky bounces. Both high-flying teams had new coaches and new starting quarterbacks this year. The defending champion Eagles were now coached by Nick Skorich and led by Sonny Jurgensen, while the Giants were coached by Allie Sherman and quarterbacked by veteran Y. A. Tittle. In a game of major importance and with Hall of Fame stars on both sides, however, it was a Yankee Stadium clubhouse attendant who made the most memorable contribution to New Yorks victory.