Peter King: "Struggling" to understand good football

Peter King, the senior football scribe of SI.com, is at it again. Mr. Starbucks stuck yet another dagger into the side of Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

If you read King's legendary and prolific Monday Morning Quarterback, you know it's among the best reads in football journalism. King routinely culls quotes from key players while sitting in his 30 Rock "Sunday Night Football in America" pad and has first-hand word from them in MMQB. He also watches a ton of football, and has a very strong take on all things NFL.

Make that all things but one.

King has routinely peppered insults at the younger Manning, treating him different than big bro Peyton. Today came another. King said "you don't give a struggling quarterback like Eli Manning a 391-yard night" in Tuesday edition of MMQB.

Puke time.

I'll admit, overall King's Eli opinions are often justified. Brother Peyton may be the greatest QB ever. Eli probably ranks somewhere in the second half of the top 10 in today's NFL at the very best. There's no comparison, and Eli looks second-rate by comparison.

But just like the rest of the talking heads (Aikman, Moose, I'm looking at you "guys"), King still slays Eli like that centaur A-Rod does enemy horses, er...I mean, middling relievers. In 2009, this is lazy reporting from one of the hardest working men in sports journalism.

As a Giants fan, Manning bashing is the norm. No matter how well Eli plays over the course of a game, announcers and writers talk about one inaccurate pass or one wounded duck. A friend who will remain nameless (Buckner) believes Manning played poorly on the final drive of Super Bowl XVII. Buckner, like Bill Simmons, pointed to the dropped interception by Asante Samuel. Hello, guys? Do you not remember the "Tuck Game?" Without that call, Tom Brady is not Tom Brady. He's bagging B-level actresses, not Giselle. But these lucky plays happen. They change history. We choose to look at the body of work (i.e. the entire game-winning drive) and judge him on that. Bottom line: He rocked, the Giants won. Move on.

I will admit: Eli is NOT accurate. But even the most honed-in are not forever perfect. Brady has been downright awful at times this year. I'm still waiting for people to pick apart his game on a weekly basis. Tick, tick, tick...

While I wait, here's the difference with King: Most major media personalities are complete blowhards unable to admit a mistake; he's largely an open-minded man. Sure, King has his man-crushes on Brett Favre, Mike Tomlin, Tony Romo, etc., but he typically changes his opinion if so provoked, altering it if a player's performance proves worthy.

So these days I find it truly remarkable that SI's top football evaluator has missed the steady ascension of the QB on the biggest team in the league's No. 1 market. It is completely inexcusable.

Peyton Manning played through pain after a risky knee surgery last preseason. King praised his season, and chronicled Manning's recovery in detail in his book. Likewise, Eli has played much of this season with plantar fascia. The injury to his foot caused him to overcompensate, and led to a stress reaction that reportedly causes even more pain. Here's a story from the Star-Ledger's excellent reporter Mike Garafolo.

I imagine King has read these reports. I imagine he can put two and two together and realize Manning's injury coincided with a terrible three-game stretch. And I imagine he's a cagey football evaluator who realizes an offensive line that has declined faster than Tiger Woods' rep and a putrid D have hurt Manning over the Saints-Eagles-Cardinals fiasco-of-a-stretch.

I guess not. King wrote this week the Eagles' D had to generate more of a pass rush. They picked up three sacks and had a fourth before Manning shoveled a pass out of trouble. That's not a middling pass rush. Sorry, guy.

But I digress. ... If you throw those three stinkers out, Manning has posted a quarterback rating of 88.9 and above in all but one game. That's nine out of 10, and, to be fair, nine out of 13 for the year. Include them all and Eli has posted a career-high rating of 93. He's a cinch to finish with the best numbers of his career.

Some won't trust QB rating, which is fine. So let's compare these two seasons:
Season 1: 4,002 yards, 68.1 completion percentage, 7.2 yards/att., 27 TD, 12 INT
Season 2: 4,081 yards, 60.4 completion percentage, 7.95 yards/att., 28 TD, 14 INT

So which season is better? Can you even tell? Does King watch football?

OK, enough rips. Let's get to the facts: The first season is Peyton Manning, circa 2008, a year he won MVP. The second are the projected totals of a "struggling" Eli Manning in 2009, as he tries to lead the Giants, who can't run, block or play defense, to the playoffs.

In any final analysis, the younger Manning clearly is not struggling. Yes, "struggle" was just one little word on SI.com today, but enough is enough.

If you want to bash Eli, wait until the future. Another day, another year, will provide you and your boys enough fodder. But please watch the Giants this season before writing another word about them.

Bush is no longer president. The Sopranos is over. You live in Boston, not Jersey.

No, Pete, it's not 2006 anymore.

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