Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the nadir of Eli Manning’s professional career, a game that Ralph Vacchiano describes as “his hideous, 21 for 49, 273-yard four pick performance” against the Vikings.  Two of those four picks were returned for touchdowns in a game we lost, 41-17.

Since then, as Vacchiano writes, the Giants have won 17 of their 20 games.  Eli has completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 4,133 yards, 31 touchdowns and 13 picks, good for a QB rating of 87.3.

I attended this depressing game with loyal NYGMen commenter Dan, and the thoughts running through our heads leaving Giants Stadium went something like this:

Wow, that sucked.  We’re 7-4, so we might luck into another bogus playoff appearance in the weak-ass NFC, but this franchise clearly isn’t going anywhere serious.  After more than three full seasons as a starter, our quarterback has pretty much shown us what he is.  Yes, he’s capable of some clutch moments, but he doesn’t seem capable of exceeding a mediocre 55% completion percentage and 75.0 rating.  And great quarterbacks – the type Ernie Accorsi’s old, deluded, Frankensteinish ass convinced himself Eli was – simply don’t turn in performances like that. 

The Giants are halfway decent now, and we should be halfway decent for the next several years.   But our quarterback will hold us back from elite status, a sad irony considering we drafted him to take us to the Promised Land.  Despite his last name and the early promise he showed, Eli is officially a mediocrity.  And now we have to wait an hour and a half for this fucking bus.  This sucks.

This is worth reflecting upon because 1) It shows us how miraculously our fortunes have turned for the better since then; and 2) It reminds us that there was nothing in Eli’s past performance that pointed to his sudden improvement.  It’s not as if Eli had gradually gotten better since 2004, and that last year’s playoff run represented the culmination of a linear progression.  No, Eli was sputtering more than ever until the New England Week 17 game, when behind his goofy smile and tousled hair, a lightbulb switched on.  Nearly a full season later, it hasn’t gone off.

It’s worth noting that the title for Vacchiano’s blog post – “It all began one year ago today, at rock bottom” – is a bit misleading.  For Eli, there were more depths to plumb after the Minnesota game.  He followed the Vikings game with two uninspired efforts against the Eagles and Bears (granted, in the Bears game, he led one of his patented fourth quarter comebacks).  Then came the ugly Sunday night game against Washington, in which – windy conditions and brutal Gilbride playcalling notwithstanding – he went 18 for 52, averaging an unsightly 3.5 yards per attempt.  Then came the two-interception, five-fumble performance against the Bills the next week, during which he went 7 for 15 for 111 yards.  Think about how bad Eli was at this point.

Anyway, as we approach Thanksgiving, it’s worth reflecting with gratitude upon the miracle we’ve witnessed in the past year.  There was nothing to indicate that this would happen.  No, Eli isn’t a world-beater, but as Tom Coughlin said after Sunday’s game, “He just continues to do what has to be done to win a game.”