New Quarterback Rating Makes Eli Manning Look Good

Total Quarterback Rating regards Eli quite well

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Aug 2, 2011  |  Updated 4:26 PM EDT
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New Quarterback Rating Makes Eli Manning Look Good

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Computers like Manning more than humans.

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Debating Eli Manning's standing in the NFL has always been an easy way to get spittle flying.

His supporters point out his Super Bowl ring as symbol of his ability to lead a team and consecutive 4,000-yard seasons as evidence of his ability to air the football out. He threw 31 touchdowns in 2010, has been durable enough to start every game of the last six seasons and has posted three straight good seasons after a slow start to his career.

Detractors will argue that Manning did much less than others to get that ring and that the Giants haven't made the playoffs in either of the last two seasons. They'll bring up his habit of leading the team to more field goals than touchdowns in the red zone, his 30 turnovers from last year and the fact that Manning finds a way to make those turnovers at the most inopportune times.

The quarterback-rating metric long used by the NFL backs up this struggle. Manning has been right in the middle of the pack over the last three years, good enough to secure a job and win games but not so good that he's hobnobbing with the likes of Brady, Brees and big brother Peyton.

But quarterback rating is deeply flawed. It doesn't reflect enough of the situational context of the touchdowns, interceptions and completions it measures and leaves you with a list where David Garrard is ranked higher than John Elway.

ESPN is trying to change that with a new take on evaluating quarterbacks called Total Quarterback Rating. The new formula, which you'll surely hear plenty about on Monday nights, takes into account "down, distance, field position, time remaining, rushing, passing sacks, fumbles, interceptions, how far each pass travels in the air, from where on the field the ball was thrown, yards after the catch, dropped balls, defensed balls, whether the quarterback was hit, whether he threw away the ball to avoid a sack, whether the pass was thrown accurately, etc."

They haven't revealed a full set of findings yet, but ESPN did leak out general tiers of quarterbacks in the NFL. Based on his 2010 results, Eli finds himself sharing the "well above average" tier with Josh Freeman and Philip Rivers with six quarterbacks ahead of them and players like Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb ranking lower.

That's a big difference from the ratings handed out by NFL players earlier this year. Manning fell outside the top 100 players in all the game, well below the three players he outpaces in this statistic.

That doesn't mean he's better. Neither a statistic nor a vote of players can settle this debate once and for all, but placing Manning inside the top 10 sounds right.

At 30 and entering his eighth season, Manning is unlikely to suddenly become one of the top three or four quarterbacks in the game. There are too many mistakes, even when you correct for the bad hands of his receivers, for Manning to lay claim to that particular throne. 

But he's proven he can lead a winning team while putting up robust offensive numbers, a combination that some of his perceived betters haven't consistently done in their careers, and he's done it in plenty of second halves when his team need him to be the man to lead them to victory. That's worth quite a bit, but not enough to overcome crippling turnovers.

That leads us to the easiest way to evaluate Manning, especially his 2010 season. His mistakes were a major reason why the Giants didn't go to the playoffs, but they only had a shot at the playoffs because he was so good when he wasn't making those mistakes.

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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