The NFL’s most clutch quarterback is not named Rodgers, Brees, Brady or even Roethlisberger or Tebow. The NFL’s most clutch quarterback is named Manning, but not Peyton. In this game of “Guess Who,” that leaves only one person.
You’re probably thinking, “Eli, really???”
Props to SI’s Peter King for pointing this out. If you read King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column this week, you might have done a double take when you stumbled upon this nugget:
I said this after the Patriots game: In terms of clutch, I’ll take Eli over Peyton — and that’s no knock on Peyton. It’s the simple recognition that right now, today, I think Eli Manning’s the most clutch quarterback playing.
King is one of the most respected NFL writers around, so surely this isn’t just some fanciful remark intended to draw reaction. But let’s look closely at Eli’s track record.
First with Sunday’s game at Dallas. With the Giants down 12 and six minutes to go, Eli had two touchdown drives — of 80 and 58 yards — in less than a combined three-minute span. The Giants won, 37-34. As King points out, the Cowboys, particularly Romo, made their own mistakes in those final six minutes, but regardless, Manning came through when his team needed him to.
Now let’s go back to the Giants’ most recent win before that, all the way back to before their four-game skid, a Week 9 win over the Patriots. In that game, the Giants trailed twice within the final seven minutes, but Manning came through remarkably, leading New York to touchdown drives of 88 and 80 yards, and New York escaped with a 24-20 win. Granted, this was against a team with one of the weakest defenses in the league. But that game is still New England’s most recent loss. And thanks to Eli’s late game heroics, the 7-6 Giants have a win over a currently 10-3 team on their resume.
In fact, Manning leads the NFL this season with six fourth-quarter comeback victories. Detractors could say Manning is only put in those positions because Giants defense can’t stop a nosebleed, as Bart Scott likes to say. Please. That only proves Manning is able to put the team on his back when it needs him the most. With 14 fourth-quarter touchdowns—already tied for an NFL single season record—Manning is somebody you can trust down the stretch.
Manning’s always going to be overshadowed by guys like his brother, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Those guys are all worthy of having their names among upper hierarchy of NFL passers. That includes Eli, whose numbers this year are right up there with the rest. I’m not saying those other guys aren’t clutch, but by being a guy who comes through the best in the most important stages of a game Eli sets himself apart with his own recognition. That’s something that more talked-about guys like Tony Romo and LeBron James don’t have.
So, is Eli Manning the NFL’s most clutch quarterback right now? I’d certainly say so.