New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning celebrates after the Giants' 21-17 win over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Any time a quarterback wins more than one Super Bowl and still has a relatively long time to play, it's natural to wonder if he can do it again and again. We're always looking for the next legendary athlete, and so any QB who wins two titles instantly conjures up dreams of five and six and even seven more: An unprecedented run of dominance, the likes of which we'll never see again.
Now, fresh off his second championship, it's Eli Manning's turn to foster such daydreams. Eli is just 31 years old and has proven remarkably durable. He has a trio of gifted wideouts (Victor Cruz in particular), and he plays for a franchise that has an incredible knack for drafting dominant defensive linemen. Can he win another one? Can he win TWO? Can he, Eli freakin' Manning, break Joe Montana's stranglehold on the record for Super Bowl wins by a QB?
When Eli Manning won his first Super Bowl with the Giants way back in 2008, it was a classic underdog story. Eli wasn't supposed to win it all. More important: He wasn't supposed to do it again. That title, wonderful as it was, seemed like an anomaly. Eli threw 20 picks that season and had a completion percentage of just 56%.
If you watched him play early in his career, his inaccuracy was readily apparent (and sometimes, even now, it rears its ugly head, like when he overthrew Mario Manningham on a deep ball in the Super Bowl and was subsequently let off the hook by Cris Collinsworth). And Eli spent the next season posting a QB rating of just 86.4. It's not fair to think of that first Super Bowl as a fluke. But it did feel like it was a one-time deal.
But here's Manning now, with two titles in hand and looking very much like one of the best quarterbacks in football. He's certainly situated to win more titles.
HOWEVAH, he can go ahead and look over at the man he vanquished if he wants to get a good idea of how hard it is to win five or six Super Bowls. Seven years ago, the idea of Tom Brady winning a fourth Super Bowl seemed like a very likely proposition. But those precious chances have since slipped away, and there's no guarantee that Brady will ever make it back. Things change in football. Injuries happen. New talents emerge. Brady may find himself having to play Peyton Manning TWICE next season. In a league like the NFL, which has a very level playing field, the idea of your team managing to be the exalted one out of 32 at the end of the season is hard enough to do ONCE.
Furthermore, there's no more underestimating Manning. No more pats on the head. No more treating him like a lucky kid. ELI IS A MAN NOW. As long as he's in charge of the Giants, he'll be expected to win 10+ games every season, just as his brother did with the Colts.
There's also the matter of playing in the NFC, which is LOADED with good quarterbacks: Brees, Rodgers, Vick, Romo, Stafford, Cutler, Newton, etc. Getting out of the NFC has become a treacherous proposition. It's not going to be any easier to vanquish the likes of New Orleans next season. That defense is going to get better.
So I think Eli, as it stands now, can probably win one more title. One. That's it. Expecting two or three more out of him, out of ANY QB, is craziness. If he can win that third title (and tie Brady in the process), he'll have performed an almost impossible feat. He may never get there. But the thing about Eli Manning now is, no one would be surprised if he pulled it off.