The NFLs most heavily scrutinized two-time Super Bowl MVP winner, up-and-down Eli Manning has been far from elite this year.  With 16 TDs & 20 INTs through 13 games, his current 74.2 QB rating is his worst since 2007—the year he led the Giants to improbable Super Bowl run number 1.

Eli Manning (QB) 1/3/81 (32 years old) — Career Statistics   (via

Eli Stats

Dissect Eli’s career numbers, and it’s clear where his critics originate.  A gunslinger at heart, he tossed 25 INTs in 2010 before throwing for almost 5,000 yards in 2011; He was rock solid statistically last year (26 TD, 15 INT, 87.2 QBR), and has been anything but solid this year. You can make the argument that he’s exactly what you don’t want from the quarterback position: a model of inconsistency who happened to get (very) hot, at the right time—twice.

But you can’t argue that since being handed the reigns to the Giants franchise at the start of the 2005 season, he’s compiled an 82-59 record.  You can’t argue that he’s never missed a game due to injury. You can’t argue that even with the Giants now out of contention this year, he’s still led them to 5 playoff appearances in his 9 full seasons as the starter. You can’t argue that he’s one of the few quarterbacks whose hands you’d want the ball in with a game on the line.  And, of course, you can’t argue with two Super Bowl MVPs.

Eli Manning (QB) 1/3/81 (32 years old)– Contract Details

Eli Cap

Up until this year, Eli Manning’s salary cap figure was reflective of all this.  He was being paid, fairly, as a franchise quarterback—which he undoubtedly has proven to be. But when he restructured his contract before the 2012 season, decreasing his 2012 base salary from $10.75 million to $1.75 million, the ramifications were that he’d be paid like a top 3 quarterback from 2013-2015.  Since Manning is certainly not one of the NFLs top 3 quarterbacks, this has the Giants franchise in a current bind.

Manning defenders will blame many of this year’s struggles on a lack of talent surrounding him.  At the start of this past offseason, Giants GM Jerry Reese cut veterans Michael Boley, Chris Canty and Ahmad Bradshaw—all respected locker room presences as well as valued on-field contributors.  Manning’s offensive line has also been one of the worst in football for the majority of the season.

But that is where the problem lies.  Manning’s salary cap figure denotes that he’s the type of QB that can win with moving parts—with a sub-par offensive-line or skill deficiencies at other positions.  With the NFLs 2013 salary cap set at $123 million, his $20,850,000 cap figure accounts for about 17% of what the Giants were allowed to spend this past year.  And with the salary cap not expected to increase much (if at all) in 2014, his $20.4 million cap figure will account for something in that same range.

Of course it’s not impossible to win while having a quarterback seize such a large portion of his teams total spending.  Drew Brees’ cap hit is $17.4 million this year while leading the 10-3 Saints, and Eli’s brother Peyton’s cap hit is $17.5 million for his 11-2 Broncos. Yet nobody is confusing Eli Manning for Drew Brees or his brother.

With Eli’s monstrous cap figures in place for the next two years, Jerry Reese is essentially betting on Eli Manning turning into something he’s not. And while I certainly would not bet against Eli having a better 2014 than his current 2013, I also wouldn’t count on him magically turning into his brother in his age 33 season.

So unless Eli Manning takes a pay cut this offseason (unlikely), gets cut (next to impossible), or restructures his contract again (very dangerous), the Giants roster will continue to be sapped of talent due to salary cap casualties (Antrelle Rolle & Mathias Kiwanuka are both veteran candidates). Manning’s cap figure also means the Giants will have a lot of trouble bringing in any difference-makers via the free agent market as well as resigning their own free-agents (such as Hakeem Nicks & Justin Tuck).

At 5-8, the Giants will likely have their highest draft selection in some time. With Eli Manning’s contract strapping the franchise in the short-term, it’s more important than ever that Jerry Reese makes these picks count. If he doesn’t, 2014 could look eerily similar to 2013.

Andrew Cohen
  • MikeC4

    Brees came to life after he left San Diego. Peyton for the broncos. Watching Eli Manning hoist another Lombardi for another city would be absolute poetic justice for all these spoiled Giants fans and for a GM who has shown he has no clue how to manage the cap and protect the franchise. Losing Eli would be hilarious for fans who can’t stand these whiny Giants fans who are no different from Jets fans. Plus, Eli Manning would finally be free of Killdrive.

  • Paul

    Reese has done a horrific job managing this cap. This is not about Eli Manning. He’s a franchise QB worth that deal they gave him. Blown picks over the years, overpaying aging vets, and free agent signings that have been busts have created this crap soup that is the Ny Giants. Reese ought to be fired.

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  • Michael Goetze

    “And, of course, you can’t argue with two Super Bowl MVPs.”

    Sure I can. Eli winning the MVP in 2011 just proved what a pointless and stupid award it is, because the player who DESERVED to win it was actually Jason Pierre-Paul, and it wasn’t remotely close.

    • Dan Schneier

      This comment proves that you did NOT watch the 2011 season.

      The Giants ranked BOTTOM FIVE in overall defense, rushing offense, both run blocking and pass blocking according to ProFootballFocus and were in the bottom-third in special teams according to FootballOutsiders.

      Manning willed his team to 9 regular season wins and four more playoff victories almost single-handedly, proving to be without a doubt the most valuable player of their team. He completed 61% of his passes for 4,993 yards and 29 touchdowns.

      In the Super Bowl, he made what was arguably one of the top two or three most difficult completions in the history of the game in the eyes of several NFL experts. His sideline strike to Manningham was thrown into a Cover 2 defense. He began by looking off the safety for just long enough to keep him frozen a little bit towards the middle. As he stepped into the throw, he not only had to make the pass with perfect ACCURACY but also with perfect velocity. Had he thrown the ball a little more to the left, the wide receiver would not make the catch with both feed in bounds. Had he thrown the ball a little more to the right, the safety gets there in time. A little behind and the trailing cornerback makes a play on the ball. The ball had to travel with the right velocity to reach the receiver in stride.

      Eli Manning was CERTAINLY the most valuable player in the second Super Bowl. You are wrong.

      • Michael Goetze

        If you think I need to watch a team’s entire season to be able to judge who the Super Bowl MVP should have been, then I have nothing to say to you.

        • Dan Schneier

          If he doesn’t make that throw to Manningham and all of the following throws and reads to lead his team to an 80+ yard touchdown drive then the Giants don’t win that game. Not to mention, a later admitted (on tape) phantom holding call stopped Jacobs and the Giants and potentially Eli Manning from scoring on an earlier drive—if stats is what you are looking for. JPP as the MVP over someone who made one of the better throws in the NFL’s history + a game-winning long drive? No.

  • Dan Schneier

    Great article. Really well-researched and I’m glad I got the chance to read it.

    I am and always have been a huge Eli Manning supporter. However, his play this season has been by far the worst in his career. He is gun-shy behind an interior offensive line that was miserably strung together by Reese. Manning is the type of quarterback who needs a clean pocket up the middle. In 2011, his best year, he had Diehl and left tackle and a washed-up Mackenzie at right tackle. According to ProFootballFocus, those two tackles combined to give up the MOST pressures in the entire NFL that season. However, with a clean interior pocket, Eli could step through the pressure and step into his intermediate and deep throws.

    Regardless, this offense has become stale and the defenses have figured out what most of the route combinations are simply by down and distance.

    • Andrew Cohen

      Just saw this–thanks a lot Dan, have read a bunch of your stuff on PFF. And that’s an interesting point about the tackles being poor in 2011, and the importance of the guards/center as opposed to the tackles. Definitely something that needs to be addressed.