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Criticizing Eli's Self-Confidence Makes No Sense

Manning thinks he's elite and the world recoils in response.

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Nothing like a nontroversy to get the football season off to a good start.

    Based on the reaction to Eli Manning calling himself an elite quarterback earlier this week, you'd think he advocated drowning kittens.

    Days after the radio interview heard around the football world, Manning is still being asked to defend himself for saying that he thinks he's good at his job.

    Can you imagine the reaction if Eli Manning said he didn't think he was an elite quarterback?

    For reasons that remain difficult to understand, Manning giving public voice to his inner confidence has become a controversial topic around the football world. It would stand to reason, then, that if he sold himself short that people would be hailing the Giants quarterback for his honesty.

    Somehow that doesn't sound right. It seems much more plausible that such an answer would have all the people criticizing him for putting himself in Tom Brady's class criticizing him for lacking the necessary self-confidence to be the kind of leader the Giants offense needs this season.

    And if Manning had refused to answer the question and left it for others to decide? That reaction would have been pretty similar to a negative response with a supplemental dose of Manning being far too aloof to succeed in a world that asks quarterbacks to be equal parts superhuman athlete, personable spokesman and larger than life icon if they want to be taken seriously. 

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't and damned all the way in between. That seems to be the lesson from the fallout from Manning's comments.

    There's a real similarity between the reaction to what Manning said on Tuesday and the reaction to just about everything Rex Ryan has said since becoming the Jets' coach.

    That's probably why Ryan defended Manning during his own Thursday media session, because he can sympathize with a guy getting attacked for answering a question the only way that makes sense.

    When Ryan says he thinks the Jets can win the Super Bowl, he gets attacked even though you would look down on a coach who doesn't believe in his team. The same goes for Manning, who gave the only answer you should want to hear from a man charged with leading a football team.

    Why shouldn't Manning have confidence in his abilities? He's won a Super Bowl, presided over several winning teams and grown as a quarterback throughout his career.

    Whether he ranks right alongside Brady, just below him or someone else entirely is totally meaningless. Football games aren't won by the guys who rank higher on a list -- see the Giants/Patriots Super Bowl for evidence of this fact -- they are won by players and teams that do a better job at a particular moment in time.

    Manning has done that job well enough and often enough to have as high an opinion about himself as he sees fit. If there's been a lasting knock on him, it is that he hasn't stepped up and led the team more vocally or obviously over his career.

    Now he's doing it and getting slammed for that as well. It's a tough gig, but at least we know that Manning believes he can handle it.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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