Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on Wednesday penned an article in which he discussed possible ways that the New York Giants could clear enough cap space to sign Ndamukong Suh. The ESPN Giants reporter indicated that he felt the signing was extremely unlikely. He also let loose this mini-blockbuster of a nugget that seemed to go largely unnoticed by Giants Nation:
"“The Giants could extend the contract of quarterback Eli Manning and save as much as $11 million this year, but to this point talks on that front have been fruitless and the Giants appear inclined to let Manning play out the final year of his deal.”"
In February, Graziano first spoke about the rationale behind a possible decision to let Eli play out his final season, but declined at that time to take it one step further and indicate –in contravention to what has been reported by the vast majority of Giants media members– that the Giants were unlikely to extend the lame-duck, two-time Super Bowl MVP. Graziano explained then that the Giants “could always sign or franchise Manning next year. It’s not as though they would be getting any kind of discount if they signed him now.”
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The idea is not without merit. While many regarded 2014 as a “bounce-back” year for Manning, the statistics paint a worrisome picture for the 34-year-old quarterback.
In 2013, Manning compiled the worst Quarterback Rating (69.4) among all qualifiers in the NFL. While that number improved (to 92.1) in 2014, it still ranked Eli at a rather ordinary 15th in the league.
Eli’s 2014 completion percentage (63.06%) was, technically, a career-best. With increasingly favorable NFL passing rules, however, the number actually ranked Eli 20th among qualifying passers, marking the sixth time in Manning’s career that he passed at a rate 20th or lower in a league that never truly showcases 20 starting-caliber quarterbacks.
And, of course, there are those interceptions.
Manning’s 14 picks in 2014 were a marked improvement from the embarrassing 27 of the previous year, but the number still represents an alarming weakness in the accomplished but erratic quarterback’s game that has never been addressed.
Finally, there’s the unassailable reality that Manning has neither won nor played in a playoff game for three consecutive seasons. Bottom-line results matter for top-notch quarterbacks in their prime. Especially those quarterbacks who are paired with established and successful head coaches like Tom Coughlin.
Dec 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) reacts after a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Is Eli Manning a top-notch quarterback? Is he still in his prime? Those are good questions better saved for another day. The only question that must be answered now is this: Is Eli Manning good enough to be worth a long-term commitment at this stage of his career? According to Dan Graziano, the answer –from the Giants– appears to be no.
The Giants Professor says: It’s not just the Giants. There are whispers around the sports world that Eli Manning’s days of magic are well behind him and unlikely to return. That remains to be seen. But Graziano makes a good point: there’s little upside to extending –and overpaying– for Eli right now when the Giants can simply wait out 2015 and see how he fares.