A little less than a fortnight ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers re-signed Ben Roethlisberger to a five-year deal that valued the QB at $99 million, with $31 million guaranteed, thus giving the New York Giants and Eli Manning a tangible benchmark to compare to. The pair possess similar ages, experience, and importance to their respective teams; making their comparison inevitable. Moreover, both have won two Super Bowls and are in the “Canton conversation” to join the Hall of Fame with neither a shoo-in. So, why then is Giants’ management taking a wait-and-see approach with Manning’s extension?
For one, Big Blue hasn’t made the playoffs for the last three seasons running. Moreover, while Manning’s numbers were better last year, the team as a whole regressed, finishing the season a win less than the year before. Further, it is extremely difficult to prescribe individual success to a group that underwent as many major overhauls as the Giants did including the installation of a new offense and the historic play of a new player, namely Odell Beckham Jr.
Manning, who signed a 7-year, $106.7 million deal in 2009, will be 35 by the time he signs his next contract and despite being named Super Bowl MVP twice, Manning has registered just 13 wins in his last 32 starts. The Giants could kick the QB can further down the road by placing the franchise tag on Manning but that would set the team back almost $23 million. It is unlikely that Manning will be showing the G-Men a hometown discount as he knows full well this is his last big payday and has the added advantage of experiencing the “business” side of the league through his brother Peyton.
It is difficult to argue that Manning deserves Big Ben money off of statistics alone; instead, Manning has the team’s depth chart as his primary support. Ryan Nassib is the team’s presumptive backup and heir to Manning’s throne, a gridiron royal most G-fans would prefer stay prince. After that, the team doesn’t have much which could be co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch’s plan. Neither owner wants to see Manning move and they could be hoping that he responds with his back to the wall, the way he did in 2007 and 2010.
Those years, as well as last season, are proof-positive that when Manning is good, he’s great and that when he’s bad, he’s rotten. This calls into question his position amongst the “elite” of the league given the importance of consistency. Perhaps a better way of describing the younger Manning is that he goes through elite phases and possesses premier talent and skill but has not had the same support system vis-à-vis defense, the draft, etc as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, et al.
Elite or not, Manning will be more concerned with returning his team to the playoffs and will want to avoid unkind parallels to Jim Plunkett, a two-time Super Bowl winning QB who is not in the Hall of Fame. Another year under Ben McAdoo’s offense with OBJ running amok just may do the trick and may vaunt Eli back in the Elite discussion, only this time permanently.