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Eli Manning Was A Top 5 Quarterback In The League For Multiple Years (With Bonus Segment Of Ideal Landing Spots For Eli)

I’ve had the idea for this blog in the docket since launching Epiblogue. I knew it would take a lot of time and research to put together in the way I wanted it, so I figured I would chop away at it in the offseason while the 24/7 sports media inevitably discussed whether the Giants’ newly drafted top quarterback prospect should start the 2018 season instead of Eli. But then, as everyone knows, things changed this week. Tuesday, November 28th became The Day The New York Giants Publicly Humiliated The Best Quarterback In Franchise History. I had to get to work right away to defend the honor of Elisha Nelson Manning IV.

As for the decision itself, I’m not gonna spend much time at all writing about that. Every single blogger, writer, radio host, podcaster, etc. in the New York market has already covered it, and everyone is echoing the same thing. Just listen to this peak Francesa rant to know how we feel about it. It’s nothing short of a fucking outrage. Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese know their seats are a trillion degrees right now, so their last-ditch effort to save face was scapegoating Eli as the reason for this nightmare of a season. They know Eli is the only real QB on the roster. They know Geno Smith blows. (Despite being the next Drew Brees, Geno barely even made the team this year.) They know Davis Webb sucks too and isn’t CLOSE to ready. The kid hasn’t even dressed for a game yet, and now we’re supposed to trust McAdoo to get him game-ready in just two weeks? I sincerely hope he does well once he gets his chance, but it’s just not gonna happen. He’ll be throwing to the same anonymous receivers that Eli has been, and he’ll be playing behind the same tissue paper offensive line. They think they’re doing Webb a favor by waiting to start him until a home game, but MetLife is gonna be hostile with all of the booing and Eli chants. In all likelihood this will shatter his confidence and set back any potential that Webb might actually have, but McAdoo and Reese obviously don’t care. They are selfish, spineless cowards who didn’t see any problem with hanging the most beloved player on the team out to dry.

The worst part of this whole fiasco is the proposed master plan where Eli would start games then get pulled at halftime, just to keep his Iron Man streak going. It’s been three days and I’m not even one percent less agitated at this suggestion. It just shows how out of touch with reality Giants leadership is that they thought this was some sort of kind gesture to Eli. It’s a slap in the face then a punch in the gut then a kick in the balls. It’s pretty much the move the Bills pulled with Tyrod Taylor just two weeks ago, a move that was laughed at by just about every football fan. Only difference is the Giants did it to a two-time Super Bowl MVP who was on multiple occasions a Top 5 quarterback in the league.

Now I know what your reaction to that last point might be…“Top 5 in the league for multiple years? The guy who is a walking meme? Um, no?” If you look back on the past ten seasons though, it’s a case that can absolutely be made, and a case that I absolutely will be making. Allow me to explain my methodology:

  1. This is essentially a ranking of “if you had to pick a quarterback to start a game the day after that specific season ended, who would you pick?”
  2. I used a combination of standard stats, advanced stats, regular season records, postseason performances, and eye tests. (For all my fellow Moneyball nerds out there, I consulted metrics like DVOA and DYAR, but I left them out of the write-ups to avoid getting too technical.) And yes, measuring “eliteness” is a totally arbitrary thing, so this is some mildly opinionated analysis.
  3. Past performance matters. So basically, you have to work your way up into the Top 5. This prevents us from having to consider cases like 2013 Nick Foles. He arguably had one of the five best statistical years for that specific season, but I don’t even think his mother would admit he was a Top 5 quarterback in the league.
  4. It takes a truly mind-blowing performance to break into the Top 5 if that quarterback wasn’t a fringe candidate for the prior season. Think 2015 Cam Newton.
  5. A quarterback can lose his spot in the Top 5 to injury, but doesn’t automatically lose his spot to injury. Like Aaron Rodgers is currently one of the best QBs in the league despite his broken collarbone. We all know he’ll come back and be fine. But say he ruptured his spleen? We wouldn’t be so sure.

 

2007

 Top 5: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Carson Palmer

Explained: Brady puts up probably the best QB season of all-time, even to this day. He leads the Patriots to a 16-0 season, throws 50 TDs with only 8 interceptions, and leads the league in just about every important passing category. Besides Brady’s performance, this was one of the worst quarterbacking seasons in modern history. This was the year where Derek Anderson legitimately made the Pro Bowl. (Probably not the best call to start with this season, but we’re running with it.) Peyton has a down year by his standards, but still an excellent year compared to the rest. The other three wouldn’t crack most other year’s Top 5 based off their 2007 performances. But Brees followed up his breakout 2006 by finishing second in yards to Brady, and Favre came out of nowhere with a vintage season where he led the Packers to a 13-3 record and made the Second All-Pro Team. There’s no solid claim for the final spot…cases could be made for Tony Romo or Ben Roethlisberger but neither of those guys had yet become what we know them by now. I’m giving it to Carson Palmer, who was the league’s best young QB at the time and put up his third great statistical season in a row.

Eli’s Year: The coming-of-age season for Young Elisha, where he put together an excellent postseason that culminated with him winning the first of his Super Bowl MVPs. But even with a six-game winning streak during the regular season and playoff run that included four straight road wins, Eli couldn’t justifiably be put in the Top 5. The offensive/defensive lines were the real key to the Giants’ success, Eli tied for the league lead in picks, and he finished middle of the pack in most important QB stats. The first great overall season for Eli, but he was more 2012 Joe Flacco at this point.

 

2008

Top 5: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger

Changes From Last Year: OK, 2008 was even worse for quarterbacks. CHAD PENNINGTON finished second in the MVP voting. Kurt Warner arrives on the list after he backs up his strong comeback season in 2007 with an even better 2008. Yes, he had peak Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, but he also nearly won the Super Bowl for the fucking Cardinals and threw for over 4500 yards. The last spot is dicey. I give it to Roethlisberger, who had an awful regular season but caught fire in the playoffs and balled out in the Super Bowl for his second ring. (People forget that Roethlisberger had one of the worst Super Bowl QB performances of all time in 2005, even though the Steelers won.) It seems wrong to reward a guy who finished the season behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen, and Kyle Orton in QBR, but Big Ben had an awesome statistical season just the year before. Three guys fall off the list: Brady shredded his ACL in the first quarter of the first game, and this was pre-2012 Adrian Peterson when we thought that injury was nearly impossible to come back the same from. Favre unretired for the first time to play for the Jets with half of a shoulder, and Palmer barely played because of injuries. Philip Rivers is the notable omission here, after leading the league in touchdowns and passer rating. But this was the year where he and Jay Cutler tried to out-pout each other for the AFC West title at 8-8, and we all couldn’t figure out who we hated more.

Eli’s Year: Eli makes his first appearance in the Top 5, although he kinda backs his way in. Look, he finished fifth in QBR (a sketchy stat, I know), cut way back on his turnovers, made the Pro Bowl, and led the Giants to the NFL’s best record at 12-4. It was no doubt a great season, but he cracks the Top 5 mostly because of injuries to other stud QBs. The Giants also got stomped by the Eagles at home in the playoffs, and Eli’s newfound confidence took its first hit.

 

2009

 Top 5: Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers

Changes From Last Year: Thank god, quarterbacks became good again in 2009. Brees becomes the league’s top QB. Both the Saints and Colts started 13-0 this season, and Brees followed up wrongly losing the MVP to Peyton by outplaying him in the Super Bowl. Favre unretires again but this time it goes wayyyy better, having a Cinderella season where at the age of 40 he put up maybe the best numbers of his career and was one cross-body throw away from taking the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Brady proves that he’s still really good, but he did throw 13 picks (insane for him) and got demolished at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Ravens. Rivers finally cracks the list, as he leads the Chargers to a 13-3 record in the first post-prime year for LaDanian Tomlinson. Warner has a good year and wins one of the best playoff games ever against the Packers, but in the next round his time on the list and, ya know, in the NFL is forever ended by Bountygate. Roethlisberger has a really solid year, but doesn’t compare to the Top 5. A certain QB in Green Bay has his first monster season but just misses the list.

Eli’s Year: Eli’s 2009 falls in the same camp as Big Ben…a nice season, just unspectacular. He cracks 4000 yards for the first time and throws almost twice as many TDs as INTs, but the Giants go 8-8.

 

2010

 Top 5: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers

Changes From Last Year: Brady proves that he’s still REALLY good. He becomes the first unanimous MVP and puts up an absurd 36:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Peyton and Brees have their usual big years, but Brees slides back for throwing 22 picks. (Saints also lost to the 7-9 Seahawks in the playoffs that year, but Brees had a huge game.) The ascension of Aaron Rodgers is complete, as he sneaks the Packers into the playoffs then goes on an all-time run to win the Super Bowl. No one really did too much to earn the fifth spot, so I’ll let Rivers keep it after another strong season where he had no supporting cast. Favre falls off the list after he unretires one last time, but this time he should’ve stayed on that farm in Mississippi. Big Ben went to another Super Bowl, but that team was also anchored by its defense and Roethlisberger’s future was in doubt this year after his sexual assault suspension. Matt Ryan makes his case for the first time, but his second straight bad playoff game keeps him in the waiting room. Mike Vick took the league by storm this year, but he also lost in the first round of the playoffs and we weren’t sure if it was fluky yet.

Eli’s Year: This was the first year Eli’s haters started showing their faces in public. He cracked 4000 yards again and threw for 31 touchdowns, but he also led the league with 25 picks. The team went 10-6, but just missed out on the playoffs after they lost two huge games down the stretch. First real glimpses of Good Eli, Bad Eli.

 

2011

 Top 5: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger

Changes From Last Year: The year where quarterbacks put up Madden numbers. Matt Stafford threw for over 5000 yards and 41 touchdowns, and he wasn’t even really considered for the Top 5. Also the year where Aaron Rodgers became the elite of the elite with one of the best regular seasons ever by a quarterback. It seems crazy to slide Brady back after he threw for over 5200 yards and took the Pats to the Super Bowl, and Brees too after the Saints went 13-3 and he broke the single-season records for yards and completion percentage. But that’s how good Rodgers was in 2011…the dude had a 45:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and was one random loss away from a 16-0 season. Big Ben breaks through to crack the Top 5, but trust me he doesn’t have a firm grasp on that spot. (I mean, he got outdueled by Tim Tebow in the playoffs.) Peyton falls out of the Top 5 for the first time after missing the entire season with his neck injury. That might seem harsh, but we really had no clue if he’d even play again. The Colts let him walk for god’s sake. Rivers has a decent season, but with his 20 interceptions we see some foreshadowing of his 2012 meltdown.

Eli’s Year: Undoubtedly the peak of Eli’s career. In a year of legendary quarterback play, Eli earned his spot in that top tier with Rodgers, Brady, and Brees. He was flat-out sensational. He had a great regular season where he almost reached 5000 yards, but in the postseason he took his play to another level we didn’t even know he had. As awesome as his 2007 run was, 2011 was significantly better. He embarrassed Matt Ryan in what was supposed to be a first-round shootout, outplayed Rodgers on the road in the second round, took it to one of the best modern defenses in San Francisco in the NFC Championship, then grabbed his second Super Bowl MVP two weeks later. In those playoffs he averaged over 300 yards per game, had a 9:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and made arguably the greatest throw of all time.

 

2012

 Top 5: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Eli Manning

Changes From Last Year: Not too many changes to report…the best stayed the best. Oh, and Peyton came back from potentially catastrophic neck surgery somehow even better. He carried the Broncos to a 13-3 record, led the league in QBR, and narrowly (but correctly) lost the MVP to Adrian Peterson. Peyton jumps over Brees on the list, who was still great and led the NFL with 43 TD passes, but also led with 19 INTs. Matt Ryan makes by far his best push to get into the Top 5, but I still give the final slot to Eli over him and Big Ben. You might think that’s biased, since Ryan absolutely had the better statistical 2012 season and won his first playoff game too. But he also had a 24-14 halftime lead at home in the NFC Championship that his team lost 28-24, and all season he was throwing to one of the best receiving duos in recent memory in Roddy White and Julio Jones. As for Roethlisberger, he is a pretty easy cross-off. He played well enough in 2012, but this was the season where he started feeling all those hits from years before. He misses three crucial games, keeping the Steelers out of the playoffs. “Is Joe Flacco elite?” also becomes a thing, but his regular season numbers are so middling that he is hardly considered for this list.

Eli’s Year: Eli follows up his best campaign with another solid year, but the Giants go 9-7 and narrowly miss the playoffs. So while revisionist historians will say that Matt Ryan should have that fifth spot, try to remember how we talked about QBs back then. Eli was still fresh off his pièce de résistance, and Matt Ryan was still the guy who couldn’t win the big one. If you asked coaches at the time to pick one of them to win you a big game, I bet 9 out of 10 would roll with Eli.

 

2013

 Top 5: Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck

Changes From Last Year: The Top 4 stay the same, except Peyton moves back up to the top spot after totally normally having his personal best season at the age of 37. (What was really in that package shipped to his wife…?) All jokes aside, his season was seriously insane before it crash-landed against Seattle in the Super Bowl. He broke Brady’s single-season passing touchdown record by FIVE, and lowkey broke Brees’s single-season passing yards record too. This was right after the “Year of the Rookie Quarterback,” when young running QBs were understandably all the rage. Cam Newton bounced back from his sophomore slump to take Carolina into the playoffs with a 12-4 record, Colin Kaepernick followed up on his near-Super Bowl run with an excellent regular season (he was really so good guys), and Russell Wilson put up clean numbers on his way to winning the Super Bowl. Wilson would be a fine pick for the fifth spot even as the quarterback on a running team that was anchored by it’s Top 10 all-time defense, but any GM at the time would tell you they’d rather have Luck. He took a straight-up mediocre Colts team to its second straight 11-5 record and postseason appearance, where he engineered one of the biggest comebacks ever against Kansas City.

Eli’s Year: In pains me to look back on this season, but Eli comfortably falls out of the Top 5 with a truly terrible year. This team started 0-6 and fell as far from its heyday as a Super Bowl team possibly can in two years. Up until this current season, it was safely the worst offense Eli has ever had to work with. ANDRE BROWN led the Giants with 492 rushing yards, and neither Victor Cruz nor Hakeem Nicks were very good. (Ever consider that both of them reaching their individual heights in 2011 might have had something to do with Eli?) Still, Eli couldn’t pass too much of the blame. He did throw 27 interceptions after all.

 

2014

 Top 5: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees

Changes From Last Year: No changes to the Top 5 for the first time, but the order does shake up. Rodgers wins his second MVP and is a botched onside kick away from reaching his second Super Bowl. Yes, Brady won his first Super Bowl in 10 years and took home MVP honors for the game, but he stays just behind Rodgers for now. (Trent Dilfer is and has always been a moron, but this was the “they’re not good anymore” year.) I think people choose to conveniently forget how great Luck was (and I’d argue will be again soon) not that long ago. He led the league in passing touchdowns, finished third in yards, and took another shitty Colts team to the AFC Championship. He beat Peyton’s Broncos on the road in those playoffs, which is the main reason for the passing-of-the-torch on the list. Peyton started off the 2014 season on fire, but towards the end of the year it started to become pretty obvious that he was losing it FAST. This was a phenomenal year for quarterback play, Brees included, but there were more than a few options to replace him. Tony Romo had his best season, leading the league in QBR and going 12-3 under center. Roethlisberger arguably had his best statistical season too, but he just misses the cut yet again. Russell Wilson was also great, but throwing the worst interception in NFL history definitely doesn’t help his case. Oh, and a certain goofy looking QB that plays in New Jersey also happened to light it up…

Eli’s Year: Eli is BACK. Eli returns from his worst season with one of his most productive. The team goes 6-10 and misses the playoffs, but that had nothing to do with the play of #10. Eli throws for over 4400 yards while throwing more than twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. While a Mr. Beckham Jr. certainly propped up the numbers, this was a forgotten yet incredible season for Eli.

 

2015

 Top 5: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson

Changes From Last Year: No changes at the top, which might be surprising if you just look at Rodgers’s numbers compared to Brady’s on the surface. But this the year where Rodgers played without Jordy Nelson and essentially an offensive line, had RICHARD ROGERS as his second most productive receiver, and still threw for a 31:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio while almost Hail Mary’ing the Packers into the NFC Championship. Cam Newton leaps Brees right into the third spot, which speaks to how transcendent his MVP season was. The Panthers went 15-1, he threw for almost 4000 yards with 35 TDs, and he ran for over 600 yards with another 10 TDs on the ground. Russell Wilson finally breaks into the Top 5 after he carries a decimated Seahawks offense into the playoffs. Leading the league in passer rating while throwing for over 4000 yards and 34 touchdowns ain’t bad either. Ironically Peyton easily falls out of the Top 5 in the year where he won his second Super Bowl, because I’m honestly not 100% sure that I couldn’t win a title under center on that roster. Luck also bows out after two years on this list, as his team’s total ignorance for blocking finally starts to take its toll on him. Carson Palmer is a tough guy to leave out for his 2015, after he was arguably the best pure passer in the league.

Eli’s Year: Another guy who is tough to leave out…Eli Manning! That awesome 2014 he had? Well take pretty much the same numbers and just add 5 touchdowns. I’m an obsessive Giants fan and I forgot just how insanely good Eli was for these two years. Now I’m just upset we couldn’t have the 2016 defense for either of these seasons.

 

2016

 Top 5: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan

Changes From Last Year: Brady finally reclaims the lead. He was the best QB in football for the 12 games he played, and he led the Patriots to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. (But never forget that he threw a brutal pick-six right before halftime.) Fifth place might seem like a rough placement for Matt Ryan after his MVP season, but you have to consider the elements. From 2013-2015 he was…decent I guess? Definitely not great. Ryan’s 2016 numbers are eye-popping and he deserves a ton of credit for them, but he also played with unreal talent and probably the best playcaller in the league last year. And you might credit him for almost winning the Super Bowl, but man he fucking blew that game. (“Matty Ice” is up there for biggest misnomer ever in sports. I still have “Big Game” James Shields in the lead.) Cam’s run on the list is a quick one, as he falls off after failing to stay healthy and watching his production nosedive as a result. The only real challenger for the Top 5 is…you guessed it…Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben posted superior numbers than Wilson and his team went farther in the playoffs, but he played in ideal surroundings while Russ stayed effective despite running for his life on every play.

Eli’s Year: Um…it wasn’t good. The Giants went 11-5 and made the playoffs, but it was like a parallel universe compared to 2015. The defense put the team on its back and Eli tried dragging them down. The standard stats actually aren’t so bad, and the offensive line definitely didn’t do him any favors. Still, he was deservedly right near the bottom of the league in QBR. He actually played really well during a disastrous playoff game, but it was already a season that couldn’t really be saved for Eli.

 

Totals (5 for 1st, 4 for 2nd…):

Tom Brady 36 (2007, 2009-2016)
Aaron Rodgers 30 (2010-2016)
Drew Brees 28 (2007-2016)
Peyton Manning 27 (2007-2010, 2012-2014)
Brett Favre 5 (2007, 2009)
Eli Manning 5 (2008, 2011-2012)
Andrew Luck 4 (2013-2014)
Cam Newton 3 (2015)
Kurt Warner 3 (2008)
Russell Wilson 3 (2015-2016)
Philip Rivers 2 (2009-2010)
Ben Roethlisberger 2 (2008, 2011)
Carson Palmer 1 (2007)
Matt Ryan 1 (2016)

 

I’m not at all suggesting this as some sort of definitive ranking of quarterbacks. It’s for sure an imperfect system. It doesn’t account for performances that would’ve finished in the Top 6-10 range, which is where Roethlisberger might have finished like five times. (To be fair, this would only further boost Eli’s point total too.) Still, I think it provides fascinating insight into which QBs worked their way into that highest level and how they stacked up to their peers during these respective seasons. (The whole purpose of this blog is to celebrate the career of Eli Manning, but you could absolutely read it as the Drew Brees Appreciation Blog. He’s consistently been a Top 5 quarterback for each of the past ten seasons. I know Mardi Gras is a religious celebration, but one year they should just mix it up and hold it in honor of Brees.)

I think this offers a good measurement for Eli’s standing among fellow quarterbacks over the past decade. His highs were incredibly high and his lows were incredible low, but overall I’d estimate that he falls in that Top 5-6 range which is exactly where this chart places him. Does that make him a Hall of Famer? I’m really not sure. Anyone who definitively tells you yes or no is either from Philly or is Cooper Manning. The truth of the matter is that while the Football Hall is pretty lenient for most positions, it’s incredibly stingy when it comes to quarterbacks. Only 14 QBs who played their entire careers in the Super Bowl era are in Canton. If you are in the pro-Eli camp because of the two Super Bowl MVPs, you’re definitely right that it’s the top bullet point on his resume (although the consecutive starts streak should be right up there). Still, Jim Plunkett went 2-0 in Super Bowl starts and grabbed one of the MVPs, but he’s on the outside looking in. Even fellow Giant Phil Simms can’t seem to get in, and he has two rings and was one of the league’s best QBs for a five-year stretch. (I know Simms didn’t start in Super Bowl 21, but that Giants team doesn’t even make the playoffs without him.) And if you’re in the anti-Eli camp because he had some bad mid-career seasons and never even came close to winning any regular season hardware, he’s not alone in that regard either. Troy Aikman never won a MVP or made an AP All-Pro Team, and the middle of Kurt Warner’s career is pretty much non-existent. I would guess that Eli eventually gets in, especially since I didn’t expect Warner to get inducted as quickly as he did. And I get the vibe that voters view Roethlisberger as a shoo-in candidate, which if true should make Eli an absolute lock. Their cases from a performance standpoint are way more similar than people like to admit, and from a character standpoint (which the Hall values) it’s not even debatable. Eli has won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and is universally known as one of the best guys in the league, while Ben is an asshole with some seriously awful personal history that doesn’t get nearly the attention that it deserves.

Still, nothing would help Eli’s Hall argument more than one last playoff run. I still think there is some life in that right arm, so here are the Top 5 destinations where I’d like to see him play next year:

  1. Giants

I know, I know. It’s wishful thinking at this point. The reason Giants fans are so devastated is that the announcement effectively and unceremoniously ended Eli’s time with the Giants. Next offseason will probably be like the Tony Romo situation from this offseason all over again. I expect the Giants to field some calls, but I don’t foresee any team offering a package that would be more beneficial to the Giants than just releasing Eli. (It’s way better on the Giants impending cap situation to cut Eli, and they need all the money they can immediately get.) Eli also has a full no-trade clause, so even if the Browns call up the Giants and offer seven of their fifty second-round picks, he’ll just shoot it down. It’s not like we can expect him to approve a less than ideal trade just for the Giants’ benefit.

Still, I’m holding out hope that McAdoo and Reese get canned right away, and that the new regime makes things right with Eli and names him the starter for 2018. Look, I’m not delusional. I know he’s not an above-average quarterback anymore, even if he has been better this year than he was last year. But this is the same Giants roster that was the most commonly picked team to win the NFC East prior to the season, with many experts even picking them to reach the Super Bowl. It’s been a hellish year for injuries, they had some unlucky losses, and the coaching has nowhere to go but up. In the ONE game where the Giants had all of its best players on the field for all four quarters this season, they lost on a 61-yard field goal on the road in Philly. The defense contained Carson Wentz, and Eli threw for 366 yards and 3 touchdowns. What I’m saying is, this team could content next year. My dream scenario is the Giants take a quarterback with their presumably Top 5 pick and sit him behind Eli to start the season. If Eli plays well, then the rookie is learning from one of the best in action. If Eli sucks it up, then the kid eventually comes in and fans aren’t upset that Eli is benched for the actual future. Which turns out is…not Geno Smith.

  1. Steelers

This one might be an uncommon pick, but it’s absolutely what I want to happen when things probably don’t work out between Eli and the Giants. I’d bet on Roethlisberger retiring after this season. He heavily weighed it before signing up to play this year, and his body has only taken more of a beating. I know that the Steelers are 9-2 and that Ben hasn’t missed any games yet, but if you’ve watched him this year then you know he’s already on the steady decline. He’s completely immobile in the pocket, and he doesn’t just absorb contact like he used to. Pittsburgh apparently likes Josh Dobbs a lot, but I’m sure they’d prefer to sit him behind a veteran for another season. And in terms of pure talent, the Steelers probably have a Top 3 roster in the league. Eli would only have to throw the ball 20-25 times a game, he wouldn’t take many hits behind a great offensive line, and having Antonio Brown is always a good thing. He’d go from suddenly one of the worst run franchises in the NFL to maybe the best. If this happens, bet the Le’Veon Bell receptions over.

  1. Jaguars

The most obvious post-Giants destination for Eli, and the logic holds up. First, Tom Coughlin is running the show there and his close relationship with Eli is well documented. Second, Blake Bortles stinks, which you may have known. The Jags can get out of Bortles’s fifth-year option scot-free, and they’d be left with a ton of cap space that could partially be used to handsomely reward Eli for a year or two of his services. This team is already playoff bound in spite of its quarterback, and the defense and running game should be just as dominant next season. I can’t guarantee Eli would want to play in Jacksonville or wear those hideous uniforms, but at least he could talk to the locals about retirement plans during his off days.

  1. Bills 

Another potential option that you might not hear much about, and maybe that’s because this is part of a personal fantasy. One of the only plausible trades involving Eli I can think of is a swap involving him and Tyrod Taylor. All of the other 31 teams know the Bills are low on Tyrod, despite him being good at playing quarterback in the National Football League. I can’t guarantee the Giants would be on board with this plan, but T-Mobile could make shit happen immediately with Odell and Co. As for Eli, he wouldn’t have to go too far and would play for another fan base that embraces him. The Bills could be a trendy playoff pick with Eli behind center, although he’d definitely need some better receiver options.

  1. Jets 

I’m sure you were expecting a different quarterback-needy team here, probably like the Broncos or Cardinals. I think Denver as a possible destination for Eli is a lazy guess…he’s not just gonna bank on getting his second wind there because it worked out for his older brother. The Broncos also kinda suck. The defense is still good but it’s aging, and offensively they have a terrible line and no running game. As for Arizona, their cap situation isn’t great and I don’t think the oldest team in football will be too interested in bringing in a 37 year old QB.

So take everything I wrote from the Giants section about Eli starting 2018 in front of a top draft pick, and just apply it to the Jets. I hope I speak for all reasonable Giants fans when I say that Eli playing a year or two for the Jets wouldn’t really bother me. It’s not like he’d be playing for the Eagles, Cowboys, or Redskins. Even though the Jets were better than expected this year, it’s likely that Eli wouldn’t contend as the quarterback of the current Jets roster. Still, the Jets would pay him a shit ton of money, the team wouldn’t totally suck, and he wouldn’t have to move his family. All chances of a third Super Bowl would probably go out the window, but it sounds like a pretty cushy deal. And at the end of the day, all I want is the happiest possible situation for Eli Manning.

 

 Follow PJ on Twitter @Real_Peej

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