Eli Manning's Career Is Going Downhill
Manning, no spring chicken, is now 36 years old, and while Tom Brady (39) and Drew Brees (37) both played great this year, it is still fair to wonder how much longer any of them will last in the league.
Just last year, Manning's older brother, Peyton, retired after his age-39 season, and Brett Favre retired in 2011 at the age of 41. While sports stars are thought of as invincible and ageless sometimes, it is always only a matter of time until their career ends.
Eli doesn't exactly need to be pondering hanging up his cleats just yet, but it would be wise of the Giants to prepare for his career to end sooner rather than later. Rarely ever do quarterbacks succeed past the age of 40.
Because age and level of play are independent of each other, it is necessary to separate these two factors from each other. Just because Manning is an old quarterback by NFL standards -- as even Giants general manager Jerry Reese admits -- does not guarantee his play is going downhill, like the New York Daily News suggests.
What do the numbers have to say about Manning's recent play?
Age Is Just a Number
To see whether or not Manning is in a state of decline, we should look to see how he fared just this year.
Here is how he ranked by various stats this season, including touchdown and interception rate, adjusted yards per attempt, ESPN's QBR metric, net yards per attempt, and adjusted net yards per attempt.
Based on these traditional and advanced statistics, Manning did not play well this year. Manning, unfortunately, ranked higher than 10th place in only two of these categories: interceptions and interception rate.
To put a better perspective on his play this year, and to see whether or not it is in true decline, we can compare Manning's 2016 season to his past seasons.
While Manning has never had the most stellar, eye-popping numbers, he has been mostly steady throughout his career. He even looked like he was potentially prepared to peak this year after strong 2014 and 2015 campaigns.
Although his 2016 does not appear highly negative based on traditional statistics, it also is not high on the positive statistics. Manning posted an adjusted net yards per attempt mark below his career average (5.96), and his passer rating remained barely above his career average (83.7).
These are not numbers that should inspire confidence in Manning as he continues to age.
Is the story the same based on our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics?
|Year||Passing NEP||Passing NEP/P||QB Average||Success Rate|
Again, this year stands out for looking below the Manning standard. In all three categories, Manning showed decline from what is expected of him after the past two years.
Looking just at this year, 34 quarterbacks took at least 200 drop backs, and Manning had 619. Of these quarterbacks, he ranked 22nd in Passing NEP and 24th in both Passing NEP per play and Passing Success Rate.
Needless to say, his weak statistics did not help him add value to his team this year. While he finally had both Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz on the field together for an extended period of time, his play did not ascend to new levels.
What About Playoff Eli?
According to FiveThirtyEight, Manning is the most clutch playoff quarterback ever. The USA Today also called him the most underrated playoff quarterback. So is this right, or is his playoff play any different than his regular season play?
Like we've already done with his regular season play, let's compare his traditional and advanced statistics from the playoffs to the regular season.
As the numbers show, Manning is a very similar quarterback from regular season to postseason. The main difference is that he lowers his turnover percentage by one point.
While the Giants were just eliminated by the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs this season, we can see if Manning elevated his play at all in the postseason even though his team lost.
Against the Packers, Manning went 23 of 44 for 299 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. That earned him a Passing NEP of -5.21 for the game, -0.11 per drop back. His Success Rate was just 39.13%.
It was just one game, but his quarterback rating of 72.1, his 6.8 yards per attempt, and his 6.23 adjusted yards per attempt in that game against a defense that ranked 23rd against the pass by Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play this season don't stack up or fit the narrative of "Playoff Eli."
It looks like a decline is hitting Manning for both regular season and playoffs.
The End Is Near
In six of his first nine seasons in the league, Manning produced years that featured a Passing NEP per play that was above league average; however, Manning has only accomplished this feat once in his last four seasons.
It looks like it is safe to say that age is not just a number for Manning. Age, analytics, and traditional statistics do not appear to be on Manning's side moving forward.
The Giants should be preparing to use a new quarterback in the near future. Whether they believe they have that in Ryan Nassib or they feel the need to draft one is yet to be determined.
Nonetheless, it is imperative that they figure out this plan, as Manning likely has only a short time left leading the Giants.