Straight Talk with Jim Sabo

Eli Manning has been a hot topic lately for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he has recently been booed in Giants Stadium. What is your overall opinion of Manning?

It's not difficult to see why this is such a hot topic. Teammates, coaches and fans all want him to display more of his immense talent. Each group believes in their heart of hearts that Manning will be a special player. What we see is a young QB that gives us glimpses of future greatness, but also burdens us with spells of inconsistency. As each game approaches there is no way we can tell how he will play. We hope for the best and at times we get the worst. Does he have a bright future? Absolutely. Is he going through a learning period? Without a doubt.

We are all anxious to see what the finished product will look like. On that front there is much positive anticipation and there should be. Our opinion is that he will eventually become an excellent NFL QB. We all want Eli to be performing like Peyton right now because they need him to. That's a lot of pressure to put on any young QB. Keep in mind; Peyton wasn't Peyton at this stage of his career. Being a Manning is a blessing and a curse.

Talk about his accuracy issues. What are your thoughts on that?

It's frustrating to be sure. Some QBs come into the league and are blessed with great accuracy right out of the box, but many times those same QBs have other issues to deal with. Most struggle with the mental aspects of the game. Manning doesn't seem to have that problem. We believe his accuracy problems are coachable. Look at it this way. Tiki Barber had a fumbling problem. He had it in college and he took it with him to the Giants. There is a notion in the league that fumblers will always be fumblers. Many times that has been proven to be correct. Well, through some solid and very basic coaching Barber has corrected that. Good coaching can teach a receiver to catch better. Good coaching can improve tackling. Good coaching can even make a player run faster. All of these are considered basic skills. Good coaching can help Eli be more accurate.

The skinny on Eli

We were able to spend some time talking about Manning with two men we greatly respect. Both work for NFL teams as talent evaluators. The teams they work for both played against the Giants this season. So that they could speak freely, both asked to remain anonymous and we will respect their requests. We think you will enjoy their candid and fascinating comments.

"Personnel Man One" works for an AFC team. Here is what he has to say about Eli:

"For a second year QB, Eli has shown us that he can be reliable at times, make plays and also manage a game well. He has also had troubles in all three areas as well, but that's what you get with a young QB. We've noticed that he is intelligent, confident and durable. He appears to be respected by his teammates. From a personnel viewpoint, he has good measureables. I would rather have him as my quarterback than Michael Vick and I'm dead serious about that. To me, Vick is a carnival sideshow, an entertainer, not an NFL quarterback, in my opinion.

"Eli has struggled recently like all young quarterbacks do, but even veteran quarterbacks struggle at times. Look at Kerry Collins and Aaron Brooks, two veterans who can't get out of their own way right now. Young guys like Joey Harrington and David Carr haven't found the answer yet. To me it looks like Eli may have hit a wall but he just has to work through it. Two major problems that hurt young QBs are poor coaching and unrealistic fans. Eli is well equipped to handle the unrealistic fans. That's why he got booed recently. They expect too much, but I will say this, he is one cool customer. Nothing seems to bother him. He is so laid-back I bet Coughlin has to check for a pulse at times. The fans will never get to Eli.

"Poor coaching is a different issue all together. I'm not saying he's getting poor coaching because I can't say that. Some of his problems could be from the complexity of the offensive scheme. I've known many coaches in my time and one thing they never seem to learn is the KISS principle. Keep it simple stupid. I'm not privy to their coaching sessions so I don't know what's going on there. When I watch him play, it looks like they are giving him a lot to do at the line. The way he stands up and is directing traffic before each play looks a bit much for a young QB. Perhaps they are trying to make him into Peyton before he's ready. Maybe they should slow down a little.

"Their offense has to grow with the quarterback. You draft a player because he's a great athlete, has productivity etc. Then the guy gets in the league and they take away that athletic ability with complex schemes to show how smart the coaches are. Too many times players are thinking and not playing. Look at Brad Johnson in Minnesota. They play to his strengths. A smart move. Now look at a guy like LaVar Arrington in Washington. They want him to be a system player and not take advantage of his great athletic skills and the result has not been good with him.

"No, the Giants should not be concerned with his progress to date unless he repeatedly has problems with certain aspects of the offense. If he does then those things should be thrown out of the offense. Accuracy is the consistent ability to keep receivers on their routes. Eli can hit receivers moving at full speed and he throws a catchable ball. He needs to do it more often. He may have to improve his timing. That can be done with individual work with receivers on the routes that will be thrown the most, not just a route that is thrown once every three weeks. He should get a lot of that type of work during the offseason, in mini camps as well as next summer's camp. There will be plenty of opportunity for that. Keep in mind, many times accuracy is a problem because receivers do the wrong thing or they fail to catch balls they should. When we prepared to play the Giants we noticed many times when his receivers didn't help him. I know Eli is around 52 percent completion rate and that's not good, but it can be fixed.

"At times I've seen him ‘flick' the ball instead of use good throwing mechanics. Generally speaking, ‘Flickers' are less accurate. He needs anticipation and a feel for the type of throw he is trying to make. So much is thrown at the quarterbacks by opposing defenses that they don't have the time to read their progressions. I have no doubt Eli can read defenses and coverages. He looks like he can get a pre-snap read, sight adjust, and can locate his secondary receivers. He can read and react to a blitz, he generally uses good judgment and he is learning not to force balls into coverage.

"He is learning to read his progressions and make a decisive throw. He doesn't always seem to know where his receivers are. Sometimes we wonder how many volumes of passing information the Giants are stacking on him. He seems to have good protection knowledge. A lot of tape study and working with his receivers will help make him the QB everyone expects him to be. Eli is young and will improve every year. Next year he will be so much better you won't recognize how much he's grown. Carson Palmer made great strides from one year to the next. Coaching made a big difference with Palmer. Ken Zampese, Palmer's QB coach, has done a great job with him."

Personnel Man Two works for an NFC team and here is what he had to say about Eli:

"I've watched Eli closely in the pre-game where there is no pass rush and he's just throwing and he looks fine to me. He throws a nice spiral and he is accurate. I believe that if a QB is not accurate in college then it is unlikely he will be accurate in the pros. Eli was accurate at Ole Miss. He had a 61 percent completion rate, which is not great but good when you consider that was for his total career and included freshman stats. He was 62.4 percent in his senior year, which was obviously good. It wasn't like he was blessed with a lot of talented receivers at Ole Miss either. For comparison, Peyton was 62.2 percent for his career at Tennessee.

"When you talk about accuracy, speed of the game is a big factor. He looks like he is catching up with that aspect. He will get better. What routes they are asking him to throw means a lot too. I've noticed that lately he's been checking down to Barber more often. They aren't afraid to go downfield and in the long run that is a good thing. We know he has a live arm. At times, it looks like they are asking him to do too much. At times, his mechanics are poor. Pass rush pressure brings on poor mechanics. All QBs must learn to throw under bad situations. In a perfect world he would be able to have good balance and step into his throws but he can't always do that. Sometimes QBs get so much pounded into them like protection, blitzes, coverage, routes, checks and running plays that release mechanics get lost in the shuffle.

"Eli is not outwardly driven like Peyton. He's much more laid-back. That's not necessarily a bad thing. He is his own person. Trying to make him into Peyton would be a mistake.

"Hufnagel and Gilbride are smart enough and good enough coaches to teach him. He needs a good strong offseason of work. When Carson Palmer showed up at USC he was a big time national recruit. His first three years there he kind of struggled along. He was erratic and couldn't really put it all together. The coaches finally did a very smart thing with Palmer. They reduced the field for him. They only had him read half the field. They simplified it for him and his career really took off. They have to make sure they haven't put too much on Eli. No, the Giants should not be worried with him at this point. I really think this is a growth thing. We've seen too many good signs already. We've seen him lead the team back late in the game. He's tough. He can make big throws. Those things are more important right now than worrying about his accuracy. He will develop even more mentally and physically. There is no doubt in my mind that he will rise above his mechanical issues. He has everything you want in a QB.

"Troy Aikman, Joe Montana and Tom Brady are three QBs who are known for their accuracy. He may never be as good as them in that regard, but that's OK. Tom Brady will go through stretches where he's not accurate, but he can work through it and still lead his team. I'll tell you what. If you want to give us Eli, we will take him in a heartbeat and I will bet you there are a whole lot of teams in this league who will trade their QB for Eli."

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