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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31: Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants answers question from the media during Media Day ahead of Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 31, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Drew Magary writes sports commentary for Deadspin, Maxim, GQ and is the author of "The Postmortal."
One of the memorable aspects of the Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl run – and there were many such aspects – was the fact that the Giants caught fire right after losing mouthy tight end Jeremy Shockey for the remainder of the season.
Shockey was always talented, but was also a complete pain to deal with on a regular basis. And now, it turns out that losing Shockey really DID have a positive effect on the Giants’ offense, and Eli Manning in particular.
Former Giants wideout Amani Toomer explains:
Toomer said Shockey “tried to take advantage” of Eli by pressuring him for the ball. Toomer said there was “no question” Eli improved his play after he didn’t have the distraction of Shockey in the huddle.
This little tidbit is interesting because it feeds into many of the old criticisms of Manning: Manning is meek, deferential, non-confrontational, etc. Manning has always had to fight to be considered among the best QBs in football, to stand alongside the likes of his brother and Drew Brees and Tom Brady. And those perceptions of him being something of a pushover are the reason why.
There’s no question that Peyton Manning, when healthy, was the undisputed leader of the Colts. He called the plays, he yelled at teammates, he dictated EVERYTHING. That visible leadership is what we consider a necessary part of being a great QB.
But Eli Manning proves that isn’t always true. He’s not necessarily a worse quarterback than his brother. He’s a DIFFERENT kind of quarterback. He’s not the field general. He’s far more integrated into the collective leadership of his team, alongside guys like Justin Tuck.
Peyton Manning WAS the Colts. But Eli is not the entirety of the Giants’ identity. He has a role to fill, and he fills the role capably. We usually call QBs like this “game managers,” but that’s not the right term for Eli Manning. He’s a fantastic QB who doesn’t operate as a visible leader, which makes him unlike any other QB in football. And he may soon have a second Super Bowl ring to show for it.