Giants' Eli Manning says his best days are still ahead

ALBANY, N.Y. — There are two Super Bowl rings in his jewelry drawer, two Super Bowl most valuable player cars in his driveway, and two Pro Bowls on his resume.

But there is a feeling in Giants camp that we have not yet seen the best of Eli Manning. And that is not good news for the rest of the NFC.


"I still think he is an ascending player," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said of the 31-year-old, nine-year veteran. "He is in the wheelhouse of his career."

He will get no arguments from Peyton's little brother. Eli Manning agrees that he hasn't peaked.

"I thought last year that these next seven years will be my best years," he said. "As a quarterback you are always trying to improve and grow and get better — make sure your decision-making is as good as it can be, your throws are more accurate, you always can improve on something."

How can Manning still be improving?

"When you have been in the league as long as he has, he has seen everything, so he gets smarter," Reese said.

Reese pointed to the NFC championship game as an example. He said Manning took some vicious hits, including six sacks, but he never threw the ball up for grabs while under pressure. Manning did not throw an interception in the game.

Growth in Manning also was evident by comparing the final drive of Super Bowl XLII to the final drive of Super Bowl XLVI. Both won games, but the latter drive was much better executed.

"In our first Super Bowl, the last drive was kind of chaotic, ugly at times," Manning said. "We had some sacks. Had to have a catch off the head. Some almost interceptions.

"This past Super Bowl, it was almost a perfect drive. We hit the big play. When they blitzed, we checked to certain plays that were good against the blitz. When they went coverage, we ran the ball. For me, it was a better understanding of the offense and more control of the game."

One of the aspects of Manning's game that he has been working on is pocket movement. He said he wants to be able to buy an extra half-second to make a throw.

"He never feels he's arrived," Reese said. "He always wants to work on his craft. That's the thing you love about the kid. Things he has been doing probably since middle school, he still works on at practice. He doesn't take anything for granted. That's why he's been so successful."

There are others who believe Manning has not arrived either. For all his success, he often is not considered in the same category as his brother, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

Manning had a career year in 2011, when he threw for 4,933 yards with 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

"He's been in the league nine years, and people still are saying we gave up too much to get him," Reese said.


His heroics in the Super Bowl in February might have raised Manning's reputation a notch to his critics. For the first time, Manning has been talked about extensively as a potential Hall of Fame candidate. But to the Giants, he hasn't changed much.

"From the outside, he is perceived differently now," Giants offensive tackle Dave Diehl said. "For the guys who are around him all the time, we had no doubt he'd be this successful based on how he works, the leadership he has, understanding he has of our offense.

"Now that he is a two-time MVP in the Super Bowl, people on the outside are starting to see the 'Easy E' side, the more relaxed side, the side we've seen all the time."

The Giants call Manning "Easy E" because he is so relaxed and calm. Kind of like how the 49ers called Joe Montana "Joe Cool."

If Manning keeps improving, there will be more comparisons to Montana — and other quarterbacks considered among the best ever.

Dan Pompei writes for the Chicago Tribune.