With the Giants winning Super Bowl XVLI, Eli Manning is now in the “quarterbacks with multiple championships” category. My fellow cohorts here at Sports-Kings have argued ad nauseum about which quarterbacks should be considered “elite.” Luckily, I will not re-hash the vile they have spewed from our countless behind-the-door team meetings we’ve had leading up to the Super Bowl.
Instead, I’m going compare Eli Manning and Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman. Both have won at least two Super Bowls, however, they have as many differences as they do similarities. For this discussion let’s look at the record of the teams they led, their individual performances in big games, and whether their supporting casts affected their performance.
Aikman won three Super Bowls over the course of a career that was prematurely cut short by a myriad of concussions. However, during his 12-year career he compiled a 94-71 regular season record, with a 11-5 playoff record, which basically equates to another whole season. Meanwhile, Manning has helped his team to a 69-50 record over his eight-year career, and has posted a 7-3 mark in the playoffs. Comparatively, during their respective runs they posted eerily similar winning percentages in the regular season (58% vs. 57%, in favor of Manning) and during the playoffs (70% vs. 69%, in favor of Manning).
Advantage: Eli Manning
With four years on Manning, Aikman will obviously have more passing yards and the like, but consider this: Manning has more fourth quarter comebacks (20 vs. 16) and game-winning drives (24 vs. 21) than Aikman. The naysayers will bring up the fact that the Cowboys didn’t have to play from behind as much, and therefore Aikman didn’t need to put the team on his shoulders as much. However, the numbers don’t lie and when its crunch time, Manning gets the job done.
If we take the averages, Eli has passed for more yards per season (3,447 vs. 2,745), but during the playoffs Aikman has thrown for more yards per game (240 vs. 220). Meanwhile, Manning has thrown for more regular season touchdowns in fewer games than Aikman, and will likely surpass the hall-of-fame quarterback in playoff touchdown passes (23 vs. 17) if Manning continues producing in the postseason. Unfortunately, Manning will most likely pass Aikman career interception mark of 141, as he sits at 129 now.
Advantage: Eli Manning
There is no denying the effect superstar teammates can have for a quarterback throughout their career. Aikman was the beneficiary of having two hall of fame teammates at key skill positions: Emmitt Smith at running back and Michael Irvin at wide receiver. Jay Novacek manned the tight end position and Alvin Harper lined up on the opposite end to form a great supporting cast. The Cowboy’s offensive line was also top-notch. A quarterback’s best friend is a great running game and Smith certainly provided that, which only made Aikman more comfortable in the pocket. A supporting cast shouldn’t be used against a player, but it certainly can make life easier and Aikman certainly had one of the best during his career.
Manning had a similar cast of characters, but none as good as Aikman’s. The Giants seemingly have had an above average to great line each season, so we can say that’s a push. With Jeremy Shockey at tight end we could also call that position as push as well. However, Manning has only recently had a few elite receivers in Plaxico Burress, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks to work with, but early in his career he had the likes of Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard, two names that don’t strike much fear into opposing defenses.
Furthermore, Tiki Barber provided a ton of production for Manning, in terms of a running game and in the passing game, early in Manning’s career. Ironically, the Giants have won their two most recent Super Bowls without Barber in the backfield. I think it’s safe to say that Smith’s production heavily outweighs whoever the G-Men have put in the backfield during Manning’s career.
Advantage: Troy Aikman
Although Aikman has won one more Super Bowl than Manning, the Giant’s quarterback is in good position to at least make a run at matching that mark, maybe even surpass it. Statistically speaking, he already matches up quite favorably compared to Aikman and should eventually overtake many of his career marks, both regular season and playoffs. Eli Manning has proven twice that he can put a team on his shoulders and carry them to a championship, which gives him a slight edge over Aikman.
Winner: Eli Manning
- Columnist Jimmy Kraft
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