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Eli Manning & Rethinking The NFL Quarterback Hierarchy

January 17, 2012

While it might be a bit premature to start readjusting our collective thought process regarding the NFL quarterback food chain since Super Bowl XLVI is still three Sundays away, Eli Manning’s win in Green Bay yesterday begs some sort of discussion about who is elite and who is not.

During the offseason, Manning suggested that he was an elite quarterback on the same level as the Tom Bradys of the world.

Following his proclamation, I chuckled a bit. It sounded as if he was trying to convince himself rather than truly believing it.

After all, prior to this year’s playoff run, Manning owned four playoff wins. All of them came during New York’s postseason run during the ’07 playoffs. In fact, three of his four playoff appearances ended without winning a game.

He just completed a 2010 season where he committed 29 turnovers. Thus, any argument that Manning was an “elite” quarterback did not have a lot of traction to it.

This year though, has been a far different tale.

Manning set an NFL record with 15 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter; he became the first quarterback to defeat Tom Brady in Foxborough since 2006 (in part thanks to another last-minute Manning-led drive); and guided the 9-7 Giants to the NFC East on the regular season’s final day.

While watching Giants/Packers on Sunday, one of my friends was dumbfounded when I informed him Manning just missed out hitting 5,000 yards passing this season.

That’s Eli for you though. He sneaks up in the conscious of general NFL fans (and teams for that matter).

His days of being considered Peyton’s little brother are rapidly ending. With two more victories, Manning will have two Super Bowls to Peyton’s one.

After Sunday’s win, Eli owns a 6-3 playoff record. Meanwhile, Peyton’s 9-10 mark is far less impressive considering his other-wordly regular season credentials.

Even if the Giants don’t win the NFC Championship in San Francisco on Sunday, Manning’s point has been made loud and clear regarding his positioning amongst the NFL’s quarterback hierarchy.

By my assessment, there are a few different divisions of quarterbacks:

  • Elite – The premier guys.
  • B-List – Close to the top but something is missing.
  • Game Managers – The “don’t screw this game up for our team” guys.
  • Young Pups – Rookies or second-year quarterbacks.
  • Seat Warmers – QBs that aren’t good enough to keep a job on a steady basis.

Let’s review each group:

(QBs are listed in alphabetical order) 

SEAT WARMERS:

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Rex Grossman

Tarvaris Jackson

Kevin Kolb (fully aware of the contract but not convinced he is better than his backup, John Skelton)

Colt McCoy

Kyle Orton

YOUNG PUPS: (First or Second Year QBs)

Sam Bradford

Andy Dalton

Blaine Gabbert

Cam Newton

Christian Ponder

Tim Tebow

GAME MANAGERS:

Matt Cassel

Joe Flacco

Josh Freeman

Matt Hasselbeck

Matt Moore

Carson Palmer

Mark Sanchez

Alex Smith

B-LIST:

Jay Cutler

Ben Roethlisberger

Philip Rivers

Tony Romo

Matt Ryan

Matt Schaub

Matthew Stafford

Michael Vick

ELITE:

Tom Brady

Drew Brees

Eli Manning

Peyton Manning

Aaron Rodgers

Where guys like Romo and Rivers failed in 2011, Manning succeeded by being reliable when the game was in peril.

It’s time to give Eli his due. Win or lose in San Francisco or on Super Bowl Sunday, he is an elite quarterback.

I just have one request though moving forward.

No more of this “YOU CAN’T SPELL ELITE WITHOUT ELI!!!” nonsense.

He has two vowels in his name. It works with a lot of stuff.

You can’t spell Belichick without ELI.

You can’t spell eliminate without ELI.

See how annoying that is?

But I digress.

Welcome to the club, Eli.

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