Saturday, August 16, 2014

Eli Shoots For The Stars On Broadway

Eli Manning might be more divisive than the new Turtles movie. At least the heroes-in-a-half-shell never seemed to care about their detractors. 

Eli, on the other hand, well, he's more contemplative.

It's a funny thing playing quarterback in New York, mostly because you're only as good as your last down, or fur coat purchase for that matter. Consider that Eli is a two-time Super Bowl champ and yet an all-time punching bag among pundits. Some seem to especially resent his penchant for suddenly improbable moments, and those people are usually Patriots fans, like Grantland’s head honcho Bill Simmons. 

The Sports Guy is right that Manning pulls passes out of his rear in a way that'd make Copperfield gush. But by the same token, you might say the Giants signal-caller simply has guts. I’m not talking about the sort of big ones it takes to ask out Gisele Bundchen, but the kind that leads you to toss a prayer into the swirling Meadowlands winds in front of 80,000 screaming fans. Gisele turns you down, at least you’re going home with your cool hair and in a sports car. But blow a big pass in New York and you’re spending the night in the shadows of the MetLife concourse my friend.

The point is that I admire Eli for his understated bravado. He’s like the quietly over-confident movie friend who thinks he’s got a chance with Emma Stone's character. The shame is he just might, if he’d stop wearing shades in the cafeteria.

Apparently most Giants fans agree that the younger Manning still has special something to offer. In fact, about 74% of people in a poll said they still had faith in often maligned QB, as of this week. That’s a stronger vote of confidence than I’m sure Big Apple fans would be willing to give Jets pilot Geno Smith. "EEhhh Geno, whenareyouagonnalearnah?!"

Ahead of Eli's eleventh season, the G-Men think tank ordered in the playbook made famous on the opposite coast. Yes, starting in early September, you’ll see New York’s No.10 make shorter drops and more promptly let it fly as he looks for high percentage readsJoe Montana style. This West Coast move is aimed at curtailing his errors and presumably will give the offense a better chance of avoiding three-and-outs.

However, many writers have jumped on the audacious 70% completion goal the Giants have scribbled at the top of Eli's To Do list, deriding it as a hard target for the best ever, let alone a QB who's never surpassed the 63% mark. Fair enough, but this system will give New York's receivers a chance to improve, and I'd count on Manning to make it work. 

Others, like Neil Paine of Five Thirty Eight also contend that the idea of trying to mitigate mistakes doesn't always pay off. I can't argue this, especially when we know Eli can drop his head faster than Matt Schaub's in a Houston deli if things go off course. On a cool night at Lincoln Financial Field, with the boos raining down and your palms sweatier than the day Cougar turned in his wings, you might rather see Eli heave a few speculators, right? 

Time, and Manning's timing, will tell.

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