Eli Manning Proves He's an Elite QB

Eli Manning proves you can't spell "elite" without "Eli"

It is hard to believe that this season actually started with questions about whether or not Eli Manning was an elite quarterback. 

Question answered.

This Super Bowl season started with a conversation sparked by Manning's assertion that he deserved to be placed alongside quarterbacks like Tom Brady in the highest tier of NFL signal callers. Responses ranged from agreement to mild clucking to outright laughter and the question lingered over just about everything Manning did over the course of the season.

We got his final argument on Sunday night and it couldn't have been more persuasive. A second Super Bowl ring, a second Super Bowl MVP award and a second win over Brady on the game's biggest stage because Manning led a drive for the winning score late in the fourth quarter.

Not that there was really much doubt coming into the game about whether or not Manning qualified as an elite quarterback. The one thing that any quarterback aspiring to that level has to do is lead their team when there's no other option available to win a game.

The common thread throughout Manning's entire season has been that he has come up with big plays whenever the Giants have needed him to make a big play. There have been the fourth quarter comebacks, obviously, but there's been much more than that as well.

Manning was genius on third downs all season, although they weren't quite so sharp on Sunday night, and he was particularly adept in the final moments of second quarters to get the Giants points that helped swing momentum and games into their favor. The Giants needed him to make plays on that final drive and he made five of them, rolling down the field with another drive for the annals of Giants history.

And they needed him to make plays early in the game to establish themselves with a lead so that the pressure would shift to the Patriots. He hit on his first nine passes for 77 yards and a touchdown to Victor Cruz, putting the Giants up 9-0 and giving them enough of a cushion to survive the inevitable Brady rally without losing their shot at winning the game.

Because the year started with so much attention paid to the question of whether or not Eli is an elite quarterback, this win is naturally going to lead to a revisiting of the debate about his place in the pecking order of NFL quarterbacks.

Does a second ring put him ahead of his brother? What about Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees? Does beating Brady twice put him ahead of the Patriots quarterback?

Feel free to come up with your own answers to all of those questions. Just remember that you won't be wrong and you won't be right because the answer is ultimately meaningless.

When push comes to shove, all that matters is having a quarterback who can lead you to titles and carry your team when it needs someone to carry them to victory.

From the dawn of the game, quarterbacks have been asked to do that. Eli Manning has proven he can do that and he's proven he deserves to stand alongside them in the history books.

Not bad for a year in the life of a quarterback.

 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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