Eli Envy is Actually a Storyline
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Forget Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or his brother, the best way to describe Eli Manning is this: he's probably better than your quarterback.
And sorry Eagles fans, yes Eli is better than the uneven Sam Bradford.
But, the whole Is-Eli-elite? debate is a flawed one, fueled by the two Super Bowl rings Manning possesses, something even his big brother, unquestionably one of the greatest to ever lace them up, can't match.
Rating quarterbacks' legacies on how much jewelry they are able to accumulate is a specious measuring stick and incredibly dismissive of the other players fighting for that title in that everyone in this industry claims that this is the ultimate team game.
"It’s a team sport" former Giants and current Eagles safety Walter Thurmond said. "One man isn't winning games for you. We always prop up the quarterback. Everyone has to play smart football. He didn’t win those championships alone. Last time I recall, he had a great defense, great front four, great front seven."
That he did.
In fact, I've talked to Eli in the past about his championship pedigree and he is the first to admit none of it would exist without those dominant Giants defensive lines, fueled by Hall of Famer Michael Strahan in the first one over the Patriots and Justin Tuck, who had a game for the ages in the second, to derail New England's potential perfect season.
In turn Strahan and Tuck understand Eli carried those teams at times through those two postseason runs and at his best he is worthy of being in the conversation with the truly elite signal callers dotting the NFL landscape.
It's the consistency from week to week and year to year that sets players like Brady and A-Rod apart, though.
What Manning unquestionably is, however, is the one thing that separates the first-place Giants from the Eagles, Redskins and a Tony Romo-less Cowboys team in the pedestrian NFC East.
And saying he is the best quarterback in the division right now is not exactly a controversial statement because the rest of the East is dealing with some spotty play at the position, at least at times.
Both Bradford and Kirk Cousins have had their moments but then again so has Josh McCown in Cleveland so a stellar play here and there, an impressive quarter, or even a solid game means little unless it's backed up by another one the next week.
And please don't even bring up Brandon Weeden in Dallas, who has lost 11 straight professional starts and has already been benched during the bye week for veteran Matt Cassel, who has been in North Texas for about 10 minutes.
The Eagles, however, are rightfully conceding nothing to Manning or the 3-2 Giants as the two teams prepare to do battle at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night.
First off the health of Giants' star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. remains up the air as does the status of complementary receiver Reuben Randle. And even at full strength, Philadelphia is probably deeper from two to 53 than Big Blue, which has major issues defensively further aggravated by the pectoral problem of cornerback Prince Amukamara.
“Just to be able to say that just because (the Giants) have Eli Manning that they are going to win the division, I think that is pretty ludicrous,” Thurmond said.
“He has two Super Bowl championships, so you have to respect that. He’s probably played at a higher level than every single (QB in the division) over his career. But I don’t think I would look at the Giants and feel like they have an edge over us."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen