Solving The Mystery Of Eli Manning



OK, let's get real now: Eli Manning is really one game away from the Super Bowl? We thought he was more into squash. What's going on?

To figure out when this sudden transformation from Scared Elisha to Hard-Bitten, Playoff Tested Quarterback happened, we asked a few notable Giants fans to see if they could shed some light on all this. Their explanations, forthwith.

Peter Schrager, FoxSports.com

My friends and I were shooting the shit on Christmas Day a few weeks ago. Somehow, the topic of "New Year's Resolutions" came up. Apparently, this sort of conversation tends to occur towards the end of the year. We were going through our respective ideas jokingly, when suddenly the conversation got pretty serious. My buddy Noah said he was going to take the month of February off from drinking. I pledged to try to lose 15 pounds. One of the ladies in the room solemnly admitted she'd like to no longer drop money on stupid shit like Ugg boots and books about 40-year-old single working women and their sex lives. The Lipstick Jungle Cashmere Mafia In The City phase of her life would be put to rest.

And then all eyes turned to my friend Dan, a relatively soft-spoken dude; a good-hearted Jersey-born-and-raised Italian guy.

"I'm going to stop making fun of Eli Manning."

A silence fell over the room. It was like he'd just announced he was going to run for President or become a Scientologist. Lose weight, cut drinking, stop shopping—that was all reasonable. But stop making fun of Eli Manning? With his blank stares and dopey haircuts? With his timid press conferences and incredibly uncomfortable Citizen watch commercials? Well, you'd have better luck enduring a 12-month fast.

Once the shock wore off, we analyzed the situation.

Could a year without knocking Eli be physically possible? Mind you, the room was filled with Giants fans. And this was just after Eli had spent the past two Sundays fumbling snaps and tossing picks (Buffalo) and throwing rocks off his running backs hands (Washington). We told him to try something else; he was setting himself up for failure.

There's an old Far Side comic where a dopey looking student at the Midvale School for the Gifted is pushing on a door that says "Pull.. You see, for Giants fans, that dopey looking kid has long been Eli Manning. All the gifts in the world, but he's constantly been pushing on a door that says "Pull."

Then something weird happened the next weekend. Eli grew up. And not the "Eli Grew Up" garbage everyone said after the Steelers game in '04, the Broncos game in '05, or the Cowboys Monday night game in '06. Against New England on December 30th, Eli really grew up.

The dopey face was gone. The botched snaps were no longer. His passes suddenly had zip on them. And though it's seemed impossible for three years, there was actually even a little sign of emotion out of the guy. It was like Eli Manning actually wanted to play football; it was like he cared.

Not only did Dan not make fun of Eli during that Patriots game, he actually found himself liking him.

It carried over to Tampa two weeks ago, and then to Dallas last weekend. While Tony Romo was wilting under the pressure, throwing senseless passes out of bounds, and screaming at his All-Pro filled offensive line, Eli was a rock from start to finish. Stable, strong, and smart.

Of course, Eli's transformation didn't just start against New England. It probably happened somewhere over the off-season. To be certain, he's been shadily winning us over for the past six months. The fans quietly loved his response to Tiki "I talk about ipods and do cooking segments now!" Barber's comments about his "laughable" leadership skills, enjoyed his presence in the Detroit game and rallied around him in tough spots against Philly and Chicago.

It's taken a while, but Eli's now the guy. Screw that. He's now OUR guy.

Somewhere along the way, Eli figured out how to open the door to the school. And in the process, he's made one friend's New Year's resolution pretty damn easy.



Roger Director, author, I Dream In Blue

There is no truth to the rumor that Eli Manning is showing up in frozen Lambeau Field this Sunday looking to play in red, woolen snow mittens with tassels.



Eli is showing up to win, although why anyone would put anything on the line when the prize is a trip to a city boasting all the excitement of a bathtub ring, like Phoenix, is beyond me. Personally, I'd throw the game.



There are three theories as to why Eli has improved:

1) Eli's soared while TE Jeremy Shockey! has been out. Shockey! held him back.

2) He's turned it all around since he began listening to Air Supply's greatest hits on his IPod.

3) He and Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, in a twist on commonly accepted NFL coaching practice, began a torrid love affair after one late-night film session just before Christmas. They intend to file for civil union status at season's end.



I don't buy any of that, though. The real turnaround for Eli came courtesy of wide receiver Amani Toomer. The greatest receiver in team history realizes that this is his last shot to win a Super Bowl. The trusty Toomer has been the security blanket Eli and the Giants needed.

Sam Rubenstein, SLAM Magazine

The growth of young Eli...

There's a perception that he doesn't actually care for football, but there was so much family pressure on him, he had no choice but to play. He even played at his dad's college, and let his dad make a power play to get him out of the San Diego sun and laid back atmosphere so he could play in swirling winds in a swamp in Jersey. Way to parent, Archie.

But you see, to many Eli has always been like the QB in Varsity Blues. "Footbawl is not my life!" In the movie, James Van Der Beek would rather read Proust or whatever literature he's hiding in his playbook than play football, so when he does play, he sucks. Details are hazy ... but by the end of the movie, Van Der Beek is giving an inspirational cheeseball speech in the locker room and he leads the team to VICTORY!

There is even a Jessica Simpson character in the movie, played by the schizo girl from "Heroes" in a whip cream bra. She is the pretty boy QB Paul Walker's girl, and he is promptly destroyed forever like Romo. Eli/James turns her down, 'cause dare I say, Eli Manning might have a strong pimp hand!

Sure, he had three of the worst games ever played by a QB in one season. The back-to-back INT TDs vs. Minnesota, the 35 incompletions against the Skins, and the Buffalo game where the Giants playcalling ratio was 70% run, 25% Eli turnover, 5% completed pass. And then he acts as if none of that matters to him, he's fine, he doesn't need to wave the pom poms and scream at people. SHOW SOME FIRE! BE A MAN! And so on.

But ... now he has the last laugh. He is playing football - not like his brother with the 40 of 55 for 420 yards, whom everyone expected him to emulate - but more like how we Giants fans like our QBs. Not a lot of "throwing" no turnovers, move the chains, give the ball to thunder, give the ball to lightning. The catchphrase is "managing the game," but he also came up big at the end of the first half at Dallas with a 50 second TD drive. He's all growns up!

In summary, it's like having a child diagnosed with mental retardation, whom you may have whipped with your belt 'cause it's his fault for being born, suddenly graduate with honors from Harvard. It makes no sense. Black magic? Voodoo? Global warming? Ah... the mysteries of life.