The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Eli: Between Average and Elite

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The common perception of Eli Manning seems to be that of a cross between a "game manager" (i.e., a quarterback who can't win without massive help from his teammates), and a kid whose accuracy and consistency are far too much in question to be given such a contract. The truth, even in the face of the legal issues that denied him his best receiver last season and beyond, is a bit different.

As we detail in the 2009 Football Outsiders Almanac, Manning the Younger improved his completion percentage by four points and cut his interception ratio nearly in half in 2008 from 2007. His DVOA jumped from -13.1% in 2007 to 19.1% in 2008 - from 35th-best to ninth. His DYAR shot up from -70 to 1,032. He may regress back to the mean a bit in 2009, but he may also be on a new sustainable plateau. What gives me a little faith that he has found the next level is what he, and the Giants' offense, did after Plaxico Burress was lost for the season.

With Burress in the lineup last season, the Giants put together an Offensive DVOA of 20.6%. In the eight games Burress didn't see, Big Blue had an Offensive DVOA of 27.8%. Manning found new targets, the running game took pressure off, and the amazing play of the offensive line contributed to an offense near the top of the league.

Going forward with questionable or undefined targets as he is. Manning can use last year to expand his own legacy. When he came into the league as a horribly overrated quarterback that the media seemed desperate to deify, he had little to offer without his three security blankets - Jeremy Shockey, Tiki Barber, and Burress. Now, all three are gone, and the offense revolves around Manning. That's what will either define him as an elite quarterback, or a guy who couldn't quite maintain that high level. The contract cements this idea.

In either case, when it comes to what the market will bear for quarterbacks, Manning isn't the worst bargain in the NFL. When San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers signs a new contract during or after the 2009 season, it will probably exceed Manning's in some ways. That's how the business works - as much as the quarterbacks who signed their mega-deals before he did might be smacking their foreheads, wondering how Manning gets that much more, salary acceleration is part of the game.

Is he worth more than Tom Brady or his own brother? Absolutely not, but that isn't the realistic question. Eli Manning simply got what the market will bear.

By Doug Farrar  |  August 6, 2009; 10:30 AM ET  | Category:  Doug Farrar , New York Giants , Quarterbacks Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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