Giants' Manning followed through on statement he is elite

Editor's Note: Thomas George is a contributor to NFL Magazine. Below is a preview of a story in the March 2012 issue. Click here to subscribe to NFL Magazine, the official monthly magazine of the National Football League.

In the year of the quarterback, nobody did it better than Eli Manning.

There were quarterbacks with more marquee names and more accomplishments on their resumes entering the 2011 season.

But from the start, Manning insisted that he was more than just a one-Super-Bowl-winning-wonder. He was as elite as Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. From Week 1, he trekked toward proving it.

In fact, this conviction has been his fuel since he became a Giant eight seasons ago.

"Eli is much more competitive than he lets on and he appreciates the big picture much more than he lets on," Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Glibride said. "He has always wanted to prove that he is as good as anybody."

Working in the same offensive system with Gilbride and being in the same Giants environment under coach Tom Coughlin for eight seasons has provided Manning with confidence and clarity. Throwing a league-most 25 interceptions in 2010 gave Manning all he needed for self-analysis. Coughlin's enduring mantra of "Team First, Team Last, Team Always" has always roused Manning's core. Last season, Coughlin's message of  "Finish, Finish, Finish" gave Manning a blueprint for the fourth-quarter finales that made him and his team champions.

Manning tossed a league-record 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes during the regular season. He fashioned seven fourth-quarter comeback victories, including the final drive in Super Bowl XLVI.

He is 8-3 in career playoff games and 2-0 in Super Bowls, and was named most valuable player both times.

"The guy has an incredible will to win," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "Behind that easy smile is a ferocious will. Everybody talks about his 25 interceptions last year, but Eli knew he was not that guy. He has an amazing ability to self-correct. Nobody in the league is going to outwork him. Nobody in the league is going to be a better example for his teammates."

Added Coughlin: "We thought we were drafting a franchise quarterback eight seasons ago. What we got was much more than that."

His Giants teammates will tell you that Manning knows the offense as well as some of the coaches.

Undrafted rookie fullback Henry Hynoski remembers being lost early in training camp, botching assignments and bungling plays. He remembers Manning taking him aside, spending extra time with him, helping him to understand the offense and teaching him how to produce in it.

Throughout the season Manning conducted extra meeting with his receivers, studying film with them, clicker in hand. It was extra work. It was extra ownership. Manning followed Gilbride and his offensive staff. Then the offensive players followed Manning.

Manning was the translator.

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