Eli Manning's elite evolution

Incremental development has put Giants QB on par with Brady, Peyton

Originally Published: October 19, 2012
By Ron Jaworski | ESPN Insider

A little more than a year ago Eli Manning sparked a frenzied media debate by saying he belonged in the same class with surefire Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Fifteen months, a second Super Bowl title and a 4-2 start by the New York Giants, later, allow me to say, unequivocally, he's right. Eli Manning is absolutely the same caliber of quarterback as Brady and big brother Peyton.

Eli's statement may have caught us off guard last year because of his incremental improvement. With Eli, there wasn't that one big breakthrough season. It wasn't at all like Peyton, for example, who upped his completion percentage more than five points and shaved off 13 interceptions while throwing for over 4,000 yards in his second season. This was a process. Eli's TD/INT ratio never topped 1.4/1 until 2008. He didn't crack 4,000 yards until 2009. Nor did Eli have Brady's immediate team success. Brady didn't have the big numbers then, but won Super Bowl titles in three of his first four seasons as a starter.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellEli Manning's ability to diagnose defenses from the line has improved appreciably.

No, for Eli Manning it's been a long, slow climb to the NFL's upper echelon of quarterbacks. His progress has been subtle -- but also remarkable. How did he get there? Let's take a look at Eli's elite evolution.

Ron Jaworski

NFL analyst / writer
Ron Jaworski is one of the most popular and knowledgeable analysts covering the NFL today. Since joining ESPN in 1990, the former standout NFL quarterback has covered the league from virtually every angle -- sideline reporter, game-site reporter, host and both studio and game analyst. From 2007-11, Jaworski occupied one of the most coveted positions in sports as a Monday Night Football analyst.