Monday, February 8, 2010

In Defense of Eli

In the weeks leading up to the Superbowl - and then last night as we all gathered to watch it - there was a lot of talk about Peyton Manning. He is, by all accounts, one of the very best quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL. His numbers are great, his comebacks legendary, and his four MVPs a league record. And the pass he threw to Dallas Clark in what looked like triple coverage late in the game yesterday was just sick.

As Giants fans we occasionally lament that we have the younger, good brother instead of the older, incredible brother (a feeling Mrs. Side Bar presumably knows all too well). But I have always maintained that Peyton grew into his greatness slowly, and entered the league as a good, but not great, quarterback. Likewise, I have always insisted that while Eli may never quite reach the level that Peyton has been on for the past few years, he is on a trajectory to develop into a great quarterback in his own right.

The numbers support my theory (to some extent, anyway). Eli has played five full seasons in the NFL (I am discounting the seven games he started in 2004 as a mid-season replacement for the struggling-but-then-of-course-became-fantastic-again-when-he-left-the-Giants Kurt Warner); Peyton has played 12 full seasons in the NFL. So comparing Eli to Peyton now is a no-brainer --- Peyton is light years better. But that is an apples to oranges comparison. If you consider their numbers over the same period in their respective careers, the distinctions become much finer.

Just give me my fucking keys; I am not guessing which hand

In Peyton's first five seasons in the NFL his numbers were better, but definitely not much better than Eli's. Peyton's completion percentage was about four percentage points higher than Eli's over those first five years. That's four more completed passes per 100 attempts, or about 15-20 more per season. That's probably statistically significant (care to run the numbers, Chuck?), but not by much. Similarly, his passer rating was, on average, about five points higher than Eli's over those first five seasons. But in two of the five Eli actually posted a better passer rating than Peyton did, it is just that a miserable 2007 season (yes, that 2007 season) stands as an outlier and reduces Eli's overall average. Peyton threw 19 more TDs in his first five seasons in the NFL than Eli did, but he also threw 21 more interceptions than Eli during that span. (Both the TD and interception numbers are probably explained by the fact that Peyton attempted 221 more passes in his first five seasons than Eli did in his). And of course, Eli won a Superbowl in his third year, while Peyton won his first (and only, suck it) in his seventh year.

Are Peyton's numbers better over that span? Sure. But as I said at the top, they are certainly within the range of what Eli has done over the course of his first five years in the league. Now add in the fact that Peyton plays in a dome, on a pass-first team, and for the period in question he was choosing between Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison as his targets. By comparison, the Giants are (or were, until this year, when Eli had by far the best season of his career) a running team, playing a lot of games in weather that makes it tougher to pass, and have never had an elite corps of receivers (except the often-disgruntled and now incarcerated Plaxico Burress).

Of course, there is one very important number I haven't touched on yet -- 4, the number of MVP awards that Peyton has won in his career. Eli has none. But interestingly enough, Peyton won his first MVP award in 2003 . . . . his sixth full season in the league. And seeing as how the Mets are going to be --- spoiler alert --- fucking terrible this year, it seems now is as good a time as any to start getting fired up about Eli's MVP campaign in 2010.


Open Bar said...

This is so stupid. I can't believe you're honestly predicting that Eli will be a better quarterback than Peyton. I mean, come on! How dumb are you!

ChuckJerry said...

Yeah, you're just setting Eli up for failure by saying that he's gonna be like way better than Peyton.

Why would you even say that Eli is an immortal QB?