Any time a season ends with a Super Bowl ring, it will always be remembered fondly, but Eli Manning had a truly remarkable season that deserves looking at in more detail.
The raw numbers are impressive in themselves: 4,933 yards, 29 touchdowns, 61% completion percentage, and a QB rating of 92.9 over the regular season, but what doesn’t show is the unique challenges that Eli had to face.
While the other passers in our Top 10 list saw no more than 147 total pressures last season, Eli Manning was subjected to a massive 220 in the same number of games. That’s well over four more per game, and matters only got worse in the playoffs. In the face of that, Manning managed to put up excellent numbers and his performances and grades only improved as the season went on, saving his best performance for the biggest game of them all–Super Bowl XLVI.
While most quarterbacks see their passer rating plummet in the face of pressure, Manning was still able to earn a QB rating of 81.2 when his throwing was disrupted and it’s those passes in particular that made the difference between a good season and a truly memorable one.
Making his performance even more remarkable was that the Giants were as aggressive as any team with their passing attack, aiming deep with determined regularity. Manning threw deep (20+ yards in the air) 20 times more than any other quarterback in the league, and remained near the top of the list in terms of accuracy on those passes. He threw for over 1,000 yards on go-routes alone last season as the Giants attacked the top of teams’ coverages.
In addition to all of these traits, Manning also proved to be exceptionally clutch, ranking second in the league in touchdowns on third down with 13; showing that when his back was up against the wall, he was at his best. Other quarterbacks may have put up better numbers, but it is the way in which Eli Manning produced his and the factors working against him that makes his season stand out and catapults him into the Top 10 of our ranking.
Best Performance: Super Bowl XLVI vs. New England Patriots (+8.2)
His season was impressive enough to begin with, but when you add in the playoffs, Eli Manning starts to breathe down the neck of Aaron Rodgers in our grading, and he saved his best game of the year for the Super Bowl.
Playing for the league title, Manning completed 75% of his passes, for 297 yards, a touchdown, and a QB rating of 103.9 on his way to a Super Bowl MVP award and a second ring in his career. In addition, the pressure that the Giants surrendered over the season didn’t magically evaporate in the Super Bowl, and he still dealt with it wonderfully. When blitzed, he completed every pass he attempted for a QB rating of 129.6, and when he was pressured–17 times in the game–he had a QB rating of 105.4; a ridiculous mark in the face of pressure.
The game’s best players are able to raise their performance an extra notch in the biggest games and Eli Manning was stellar on the biggest stage of all.
Key Stat: Manning faced pressure last season on 313 drop-backs, including playoffs.
What makes Manning’s season so special is that he did it in the face of more pressure than any other quarterback in football. In the regular season, the Giants’ offensive line allowed 15 more total pressures than any other unit in the NFL, and if you throw in the playoffs that number rockets up to 91. Eli had one of the best seasons in the league despite dealing with the single worst pass-blocking unit there was last year.
In David Diehl he had a sub-par guard playing with an injured hand protecting his blind side at left tackle for much of the year, and things didn’t get much better across the line, with even veteran stalwarts like Kareem McKenzie suddenly becoming a turnstile for pressure. To do what Manning was able to do under that kind of pressure is incredible, and to then become more accomplished as the season wore on to crunch time was even more so. Eli caught fire at the tail end of the season and rode that hot streak to a Super Bowl victory with very little help from his blocking, and that is why he is so high up our list in spite of some lesser play earlier in the year.
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