After the 2010 season, in which he set a career high for passes picked off, Eli Manning famously declared that he is "not a 25-interception quarterback.''
Three years later, that's exactly what he's hoping to be. Because he already has 25 through 14 games. If he somehow can slam the brakes on the turnovers -- the Giants have had at least one in every game this season -- and land right on 25, well, it might actually be an accomplishment. A tiny one in a season full of big disappointments, but an accomplishment nonetheless. And the kind of step back toward Super Eli that Tom Coughlin spoke about this week.
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"It's probably going to come in small gains,'' Coughlin said when asked if he thinks we'll ever see Elite Eli again, "but I believe it will come.''
The question is: Does the Giants' front office believe it? And how much are they willing to wager that it will?
Manning, who will turn 33 next month, has two years remaining on his contract, and if the Giants want to thin his cap numbers for those two seasons, they'll have to convince him to take a pay cut (sure!) or extend his deal to prorate the money over more years. Is a quarterback who has not made the playoffs in four of his five prime seasons worth investing in? Is a quarterback who has won two Super Bowl MVPs?
And which one is Manning, again?
If Manning throws one more interception to set a team and personal high, his statistical chances of ever winning another championship are essentially zero, if history is a guide. Since the 1970 merger, there have been 16 quarterbacks with more than 25 interceptions in a season. Of those 16 (two of whom did it twice), four have won a Super Bowl ring. Well, that's not so bad. A quarter of them.
But only one won the title after the season in which he topped 25. That's Peyton Manning, who chucked 28 of them as a rookie in 1998 and won Super Bowl XLI eight years later. The others -- Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Brett Favre -- won the championship before their pick-plagued seasons.
Manning said he's not lacking confidence that he can buck those odds.
"I feel I can go out there and play well and still throw the ball well and move this offense,'' he said. "Obviously, we have struggled offensively, but I'm not going to change my preparation or my thought process. I know that I can go out there and do my job well and get us a win.''
Giants teammates agree.
When asked if Eli is still an elite quarterback, Justin Tuck said: "Without a question, without a doubt whatsoever. Based on what I've seen, based on what I know about him. Yeah, he's having a down year, but he'll get the opportunity to rewrite all of that, and I fully expect him to do so.''
Of course, the last time Manning threw 25 interceptions, he won a Super Bowl the following season. And no quarterback on that over-25 list has two championships, as Manning does.
"I try not to get caught up with the number of interceptions,'' Manning said.
He and the Giants would much rather be counting titles than turnovers.