“He’s just as happy on the sideline if he’s handing it off 30 times or if he’s throwing for 500 yards,” his backup David Carr says. “If you’re standing one-on-one with him, you can’t tell if he’s done either one of those things.”
Great quarterbacks are supposed to show some overt flair, histrionics, right? They’re supposed to gesticulate like Manning’s older brother Peyton, or fling their hair and their temper around like Brady. Eli Manning comes on as colorless, undemonstrative by comparison. He never raises his voice, his teammates say. The only time “is when I forget to go in motion,” Victor Cruz says. “Other than that, he keeps it pretty even. He doesn’t panic, he doesn’t get overly flustered and that counts for a lot. You know, Eli, he’s just calm, he doesn’t yell, he just tells us the plays and we line up. There’s never anything out of character.”
Nevertheless, he has impressed his personality and character on the entire Giants team. The Giants, like him, are a bunch of underestimated gray shirts who beneath their drabness bulge with heavily muscled ambition. Just when you think they are unsensational, they turn deadly. They lead the league in big plays — they have struck for 18 of 40 yards or more. That’s more than Brady, Brees or Rodgers. “We’re calm and we don’t panic, and we remain disciplined, especially in those games when we had to come through with late comebacks,” Manning says. “When we are up against the wall and things seem bad, that seems to bring out our best play.”
Argue all you want about what defines elite. Is it completion percentage, aerial yardage, come-from-behind ability, lethalness in the red zone? Manning has shown all of them this season.
“I’m just grateful he’s ours,” Giants defensive back Antrel Rolle says. “He believes he’s an elite QB; he feels it and understands it and proves it week in and week out. I’ll take No. 10, and I’d ride and die with him. I wouldn’t rather have anyone else.”