Career-year has Giants’ Manning among elite QBs
Halfway through the season, there is no longer a debate on
whether Eli Manning ranks among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.
A career year and five fourth-quarter wins have put Manning in
the same category as Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, and helped the
New York Giants (6-2) take a two-game lead in the NFC East.
So why the breakthrough this year? Why is everything falling
into place for the 30-year-old, who never seemed to get credit
despite leading the Giants to a Super Bowl title in February
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride says if you take away
Manning’s 25 interceptions last year his statistics are about the
Talk to his receivers, and they see a steady hand at the
controls, the same guy who sits them down Fridays for Eli’s
players’ only briefing.
”His confidence is through the roof now,” receiver Michael
Clayton said. ”He’s really making some phenomenal checks at the
line of scrimmage, not only passing but running the ball. I’ve
played with a lot of quarterbacks in my career, more than 11, and
he by far, how he reads coverages is the best of anybody I’ve seen.
Our success is on his shoulders. He’s up there. He is a special
quarterback, a guy you can count on to put you in the best position
That’s what Manning’s Friday meetings are all about.
The get-together is usually 10 minutes after practice, giving
the wideouts, tight ends and the occasional running back who is
invited enough time to run into the cafeteria to grab a bite before
meeting in the receivers’ room at the Giants headquarters.
Manning is usually in front of the room, ready to make a digital
visual presentation of the defensive schemes of – let’s say – the
San Francisco 49ers – this week’s opponent. He has the players
imagine certain plays being called and discusses how they will
react against the schemes or how other teams have countered those
schemes with plays that are similar to ones run by the Giants.
”You try to imagine how they will play out, what everybody’s
assignments will be and what we need to do,” Manning said. ”It’s
different things that maybe haven’t come up in practice that we
need to talk about to make sure we are prepared for everything.
It’s mental notes that I have seen and want to relate to them. You
can talk to them about it, but visualization gets the point
Manning’s breakdown usually points out the middle linebacker,
the checks on each play, or who’s coming on the blitzes. And if
saying it isn’t enough, Manning usually circles the things he wants
players to see when he runs the video.
”I am a big believer in preparation, definitely,” Manning
said. ”There is a lot that goes on. New plays coming in, receivers
have to understand what they are doing and you realize: `Hey it’s
easy doing this.’ Everybody plays coverages and schemes a little
different. You might say this is Cover 2, but maybe it’s a little
different, they’re a Tampa 2 team.
”There’s a lot that goes into some of our decision making as
receivers and quarterbacks,” Manning added. ”I’m trusting those
guys to be in the right spot. If we can talk through something and
make sure we are exactly on the same page I might be able to make
my decision a half a second quicker, and that might be the
difference between a completion and a sack.”
Manning seemingly is a half second faster this season. The No. 1
pick in the 2004 draft has thrown for 2,377 yards, 15 touchdowns
and six interceptions. He is on pace to finish with 4,754 yards,
which would break his career-high set in 2009 by 733 yards and the
team record of 4,073 set by Kerry Collins in 2002.
What has made Manning’s play so amazing is that he has come
through despite losing Steve Smith and Kevin Boss to free agency
and veteran Domenik Hixon to a knee injury in the second game of
Hakeem Nicks (38 catches) and Mario Manningham (27) are
producing as expected but Manning has found a way to mix in
second-year wide out Victor Cruz (34) and second-year tight end
Jake Ballard (23) to fill the holes along with running back Ahmad
Nicks said Manning’s meetings are never one-sided.
”It’s him leading it, but it’s open for discussion,” said
Nicks, who missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury. ”I’ll
say: `E I think I can do this on this certain play and he’ll go
`OK’, I think you could, too,’ and we’ll do that,” Nicks said.
Minnesota tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, a Giant from 2003-06,
remembers Manning’s meetings.
”His film work and just knowing and diagnosing these defenses
quickly and being able to know where to throw the ball, that’s what
always made him successful,” Shiancoe said. ”He has the physical
attributes, but that work off the field is very important. And it’s
showing with Eli. He’s always been a guy in the film room extra.
First one in, last one out.”
San Francisco cornerback Carlos Rogers played against Manning
for six seasons with the Redskins, so he has seen most of his
”It’s a combination of him having total control of the offense
and the receivers knowing what they’re doing,” Rogers said. ”When
those guys were younger I think it was a struggle, knowing where to
go and running their routes at the right depth, things like that.
… They pretty much know what they are doing now.”
Manning has had a big part in the development of the young
”The fact he comes up to me and tells me where he wants to go
with the ball at times, and what he is looking at on defense, and
where he thinks I will be open, it’s just great,” said Cruz, who
leads the receivers with four touchdowns. ”To have a guy like that
in your ear, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, it’s great.”
Cruz also knows he has been successful because nothing seems to
bother Manning. In the opening game of the year, Cruz dropped an
easy third-down pass on the opening drive. After the play, Manning
walked up to him and told him he would get his chances again.
”That is one of his top traits, that whether it’s good or bad,
he’s the same guy,” offensive lineman Kevin Boothe said. ”You
don’t get him too riled up and you don’t get him down. It’s an even
playing field with him. I think it’s almost like a calming
influence when you come into the huddle regardless of what
Gilbride has seen a steady growth in Manning’s development with
the biggest change being the drastic reduction in interceptions. He
attributes it to Manning being a little more careful.
Manning also has reached the point in his career where Gilbride
can use things not in the game plan and know his quarterback can
make them work.
”Now if it’s a first-year, second-year guy, I don’t know that
you can ask him to do that, but he can do it,” Gilbride said.
”He’s like an extension of our coaching staff out there, so he
does a good job. I think it’s a combination of the guys around him
are playing well enough that you can see his play at such a high
level and I think it’s continued development with (Eli).”
AP Sports Writers John Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Janie
McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.