Eli Manning looks like a quarterback on his last legs. It’s hard to watch him over the last year and a half and come to a different conclusion. Last year, he averaged 6.1 yards per attempt, he took the second-most sacks of his career (31), and he only threw 19 touchdown passes, also the second-lowest of his career outside of a rookie season where he didn’t start right away.
Basically, all the statistical indicators were there a year ago, to match the eye test. Nevertheless, there was a huge outcry when he got benched, ending his consecutive games streak. It felt like the entire offseason was a giant apology letter to Eli for that move, in place of an epiphany that it should be time to move forward. Apologists and optimists could point to Odell Beckham’s injury as a reason for the drop, and no doubt it contributed.
Well, as it turns out, the return of Odell Beckham and the addition of Saquon Barkley has done wonders for some of those numbers. Yet, Eli Manning still looks done. Are you ready for some craziness as the Giants sit here at 1-6?
- Eli Manning has the highest completion percentage of his career, by nearly a full 6%;
- Eli Manning has the lowest interception percentage of his career, at exactly half the rate at which he has thrown picks over his 15-year career;
- Eli Manning has the highest passer rating of his career (thanks to those two stats above);
- He has the highest YPA since 2011, the last time the Giants won the Super Bowl (and a playoff game at all) and his YPA is currently the 3rd-highest of his career;
- He has the second-highest passing yards per game of his career and the highest since 2011.
Usually, those things are an indicator of quality, but we are seeing an exception here. I wouldn’t sit here and tell you that Eli Manning is in fact playing as well as he has at any point in his career, or anywhere close.
In many ways, he’s turned into the anti-Eli of that guy won two Super Bowls. That Eli rarely took sacks, would occasionally throw too many picks and take chances, and would push the ball down the field. He was often underrated by passer rating, which over-inflates completion percentage and doesn’t include sacks (which is, after all, a quarterback stat as well as any of these other things).
Now, he’s taking sacks and turtling up behind a porous offensive line. He’s already at 24 sacks, and has only had more than 31 sacks once in his career before now. He’s not making plays in the red zone and his touchdown rate is low. That play on 4th and 1 where he didn’t throw it to an NFL-open Odell Beckham on a designed play was emblematic. QBR, which tries to measure all that stuff, including running, taking sacks, and making plays, has him at below 50 for the third straight year.
If we look at league-adjusted rate stats, he is well below average in both sacks and touchdowns. The list of guys who had a well below average sack and td rate (less than 90, where 100 is league average) while being well above average in completion percentage (110 or better) and at least average in yards per attempt is small. Generally, it doesn’t happen this way. And the list is instructive.
Over the last 30 years, it consists of Tony Banks in 1998, Ken O’Brien in 1989, and Teddy Bridgewater in 2015.
Eli Manning looks done, and yet, by at least some measures, he’s bounced back. Looking at the full statistical picture, though, what I can say is that he’s still done, and if they get a competent replacement in New York, success can come fairly quickly, because Odell and Saquon are gonna make lots of stats look good.