After a season in which he put up career-best numbers, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning could be the dark horse to win league MVP. If he does, he’d become the first Big Blue quarterback to do it since Y.A. Title in 1963.
When the 2015 season ended, the New York Giants were 6-10, had missed the Playoffs for the fourth consecutive year and would ultimately go on to “part ways” with head coach Tom Coughlin. However, little of that was the fault of quarterback Eli Manning, who put up some of the best numbers of his professional career: 4,436 yards, 35 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 62.6 completion percentage and a QB Rating of 93.6.
As the result of his performance in 2015 — the second such season in which he put up big numbers under now-head coach Ben McAdoo — Manning returned to the NFL Network Top 100, being voted No. 47 overall by his peers. It was the first time Manning appeared on the list since 2013.
Manning, of course, also appeared in his fourth Pro Bowl a season ago, ultimately proving that he’s got plenty left in the tank and is still a ways off from the downslope of his career.
So what can Manning do in 2016 as an encore? How about the unexpected; how about the NFL MVP award?
For many, the notion of Manning winning the MVP is a ludicrous thought. He’s often viewed as “overrated” or a “product of those around him” or any other series of dismissals the anti-Eli crowd can come up with. And what about those silly faces? Oh those faces!
Despite the detractors and personal insults that have led to the creation of a “Poor Eli Manning” series that has run for over a decade, the reality is that Manning could very well be on his path to that elusive award.
“I feel great physically. I’m in great shape. My arm’s good. I’m not slowing down,” Manning told NorthJersey.com. “I’ve probably gotten smarter and better at understanding what I need to do to last a season and stay healthy.”
Even at 35-years-old, Manning’s health is what gives him an added advantage over others also vying for the MVP award. He’s currently the NFL’s active iron man, having started 194 consecutive games (183 regular season, 11 playoffs), and appears to be in as good a shape as ever.
Over the last two offseasons, Manning has altered his workouts, training with Major League Baseball pitching coaches to not only help improve his arm strength, but keep his arm and shoulder from becoming tired or worn.
The results are clear cut — there was no late-season lull due up upper body exhaustion a year ago, so what it will all boil down to is health, consistency and continuity of those around him.
The added luxury for Manning going into the 2016 season will be the return of wide receiver Victor Cruz and tight end Larry Donnell, as well as the additions of wide receiver Sterling Shepard and running back Paul Perkins.
With even more potential targets to choose from, Manning will be able to capitalize on his already impressive ability to spread the ball around. It should also leave more individual opportunities for Odell Beckham Jr. to break loose, only enhancing the danger for opposing defenses.
On paper, Manning now appears to have more weapons than he’s ever previously had — although a healthy Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham are nothing to shake your fist at.
Either way, with two years of the West Coast-style system under his belt and turnovers dramatically reduced as a result, the two-time Super Bowl MVP could not possibly find himself in a more ideal situation under center.
When all is said and done, should Manning lead Big Blue back to winning and back to the Playoffs while continuing to improve upon his yearly numbers, even the most outspoken Eli detractors will have a hard time dismissing him.
5,000 yards, 40 touchdowns and a near 70-percent completion rate — which has long been his personal goal — are not entirely unrealistic or out of reach for Peyton’s little brother.