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Eli Manning has been in the NFL since 2004. He has been the New York Giants‘ starting quarterback for all but 10 games during that time, even starting 210 consecutive games at one point. 

On balance, Manning has been about average as a quarterback during his career. Among the 70 players who have thrown at least 1,000 passes since Manning entered the NFL, he ranks 44th in completion percentage, 18th in touchdown rate, 51st in interception rate, 38th in yards per attempt, 41st in passer rating, and 30th in career winning percentage in his starts. Manning’s best ability was his availability, as unlike other players who at times performed better than him on the field, Manning never missed a start due to injury. 

Despite largely average performance, the Giants still managed to win not one, but two Super Bowls during his time at the helm. They accomplished the feat with two of the greatest playoff runs in modern football history, including one where they defeated a Patriots team that entered the game 18-0. Manning was spectacular through both of those runs, but nobody would deny that it was the defense that carried the team to those Super Bowl victories. 

And yet, two of Manning’s former teammates think that the team has wasted his prime. 

“They’ve wasted the last few years of Eli’s career, they’ve wasted his prime,” former center Shaun O’Hara said at a charity function, per the Giants-focused blog Big Blue View. “It’s been hard to sit and watch that happen. I’m glad to see that they found a way to correct it, but Eli can still play the game.”

Defensive lineman Justin Tuck, who played on both championship teams, agreed with O’Hara’s opinion. “I agree with him,” Tuck said. “We all know what Eli can do when he is healthy and when he has comparable athletes around him. I don’t think he had those. Anything other than that, you are just lying to yourself.”

While Manning’s former teammates are correct that the team hasn’t necessarily surrounded him with adequate talent over the past few years, it’s difficult to agree with their conclusion that this amounted to a waste of his prime. Anyone who watched Manning (or took a look at his numbers) the past few seasons could tell you that he’s clearly no longer in his prime. And during the time that he was, the Giants won the Super Bowl twice. If anything, they maximized his prime as well as they possibly could have. And because they did, Manning seems likely to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame at some point. That’s a pretty good consolation for not playing with top-tier talent toward the end of his career. 

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