It’s hard to find a career comparison for New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He’s a multi-time Super Bowl champion who has missed the playoffs more than he’s made it.
I apologize for such a simplified summary of a fascinating career, but that’s the gist of what everyone attempts to articulate when debating Manning’s Hall of Fame pedigree.
In 11 NFL seasons, Manning has made five postseason appearances. He’s won two championships, with a pair of Super Bowl MVP awards to provide him with the ammunition for a Hall of Fame campaign.
Manning has also missed the playoffs on six separate occasions, led the league in interceptions three times and has completed less than 60 percent of his passes for his career.
In 2015, that will all come to a head in the single most important season of Manning’s career.
Finding the Winning Path
Entering 2015, the Giants have failed to make the NFL Playoffs in three consecutive seasons. There have been moments of fleeting glory, including the rises of Odell Beckham and the solidification of Victor Cruz, but victories have come in small flurries.
Quite frankly, it’s embodied the story of Eli Manning’s career.
As previously alluded to, Manning has five postseason appearances to six misses. He’s failed to lead the Giants to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.
How much longer of a leash can the Giants afford to give him?
If New York fails to make the playoffs in 2015, looking to the NFL Draft for an heir apparent would be the rational course of action. Said player may not start from Day 1, but Manning’s two Super Bowl runs only mean so much when the team can’t win now.
If Manning does get the Giants back into the NFL Playoffs, he could be in store for a massive payday—potentially the last of his career.
(Last?) New Contract
Eli Manning is entering the final year of his current contract. He’ll make a base salary of $17 million in 2015, thus completing his lucrative six-year deal worth $97 million.
The question is, how much should the Giants pay him come the 2016 offseason?
Missing the postseason in four consecutive seasons would decimate a vast majority of Manning’s leverage. The Giants are a generally loyal organization, but wins and losses speak volumes.
Paying a quarterback big money for facilitating mediocrity simply doesn’t add up.
Should Manning thrive as both an individual and leader, the conversation will change. He’d suddenly open himself up to a massive new deal as he proves that he can still put points on the board and lead the team to victories in big games.
Even still, one question will persist: how much should a 35-year-old quarterback be paid?
Eli Manning has enjoyed a career that many quarterbacks could only dream of. For all of his inconsistencies, he’s won two Super Bowls and will likely make the Hall of Fame.
Fair or foul, the question must be asked: how much more does he really have left in the tank?
Manning is 34 years old and will be 35 when his new contract kicks in. Thus, any sign of regression could result in his missing out on a significant amount of money.
More importantly, it could signal the end of an era.
Missing the playoffs in four consecutive seasons would be rough enough, but doing so with a 35-year-old quarterback would tell a very clear story: it’s time to move on.
If this weren’t the Giants, that would be easily accepted amongst a loyal fan base. Because it is, and major market hype does come into play, that pill would become—or, if we’re being blunt, is becoming—significantly more difficult to swallow.
If a 35-year-old Manning records four consecutive failed seasons, the Giants would need to find his replacement. Whether New York did so immediately or gradually, that would be the harsh reality.
If he shines, Manning could make a lucrative amount of money in what could be the final big contract of his career.
With all of these factors grouped together, 2015 is shaping up to be the single most important season of Eli Manning’s career.
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