Appreciate quarterback Eli Manning, New York Giants fans, because performers like him are rare.
Hours prior to Super Bowl XLVI, I conversed with a couple of pals at Yankee Stadium. I told them New York was going to defeat the New England Patriots–not just due to being a better team overall–but because Manning gets it done when it matters most … more than anyone else in professional football, in my opinion.
He regularly makes plays when one is desperately needed, when that crucial moment arrives. He makes plays that answer prayers, that make the difference. I greatly respect that, but don’t count me among those who’re shocked by Manning’s flair for the dramatic.
I recognized it when he drove New York down the field to beat the Denver Broncos late in the fourth quarter early in his career. I saw then an apex predator, hitherto hidden beneath the facade of a guy who often looked pathetic, weak and lost behind center. Before beating Denver, Manning was the proverbial deer in the headlights in my eyes, the king of poor, doofus-like body language. Heck, I think he still holds that title, though on a part-time basis.
But he is also the King of Clutch these days, and has been since beating Tom Brady and Bill Belichick four years ago. He beat them again Sunday night in Indianapolis, improving to 2-0 over the NFL’s most lionized pair when everything is on the line.
Back then it was escaping an apparent sack to complete an incredible pass to David Tyree, minutes before throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress. This time around, Manning finds receiver Mario Manningham on the left sideline for an important 38-yard completion, after which running back Ahmad Bradshaw put New York ahead with a touchdown the Patriots and their fans wanted one trillion times more than Bradshaw himself.
Brady’s Hail Mary prayer went unanswered as time expired, so the most undesired TD in Super Bowl history–by followers of the scoring team, at least–held.
Giants 21, Patriots 17.
Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have unequivocal ownership over the “elite quarterback” label, yet none have won more Super Bowls than Manning since 2008. Were I Manning, I’d say, “Keep the label, resume making Pro Bowl appearances and please, please exclude me from your exclusive club. I’ve taken a liking to collecting shiny objects in early February.”
And lastly, do not, if you possess any care at all for things that make sense, or the practice of not wasting time on that which is prodigiously worthless, compare Tony Romo to Eli Manning ever again.