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Eli's already tested

The Baltimore Sun

Right up front, let me point out that I've never been shy about expressing my giant man crush on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Flacco played Division I-AA football at the University of Delaware, and because the Blue Hens are sort of distant rivals with my alma mater, the University of Montana, I feel like we're almost kindred spirits. I've always felt like watching the Ravens was fun, but Flacco has made it exciting again.

That said, if forced to choose a quarterback for the next 10 years, the pragmatist in me would probably go with Eli Manning.

The fact that this is even a credible debate is a testament to Flacco's promise, but I'm one of those people who believe that Manning's value goes well beyond statistics. And, while he might not be an elite quarterback yet, he still has plenty of room to grow. Flacco, with just nine starts (including bad ones against the Steelers, Colts and Titans), still has a long way to climb just to get to where Manning is now. Will he get there? I think so. But nothing is more unpredictable than quarterback play in the NFL.

Manning has already been hardened by the intense New York media, which practically wanted his head on a pike before the playoffs last year. And as soon as he no longer had to deal with Jeremy Shockey throwing hissy fits when he didn't get the ball, he blossomed into a leader. Will Flacco show the same temperament if he's getting ripped in year three?

Manning's magnificent Super Bowl run last year proved to me that he has that rare combination of guts and calm under fire that you simply can't teach. It might be the most important attribute a quarterback can have. If he weren't Peyton Manning's little brother, we'd probably spent a lot more time talking about what he is than what he is not.

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