Eli Manning is a top-caliber quarterback. Well, at least he says he is.
The New York Giants quarterback didn't shy away when, as a Tuesday guest on "The Michael Kay Show" on ESPN New York 1050, he was asked if he is in the same class as three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
"I consider myself in that class," said Manning, the MVP of Super Bowl XLII. "Tom Brady is a great quarterback, he's a great player and what you've seen with him is he's gotten better every year. He started off winning championships and I think he's a better quarterback now than what he was, in all honesty, when he was winning those championships.
"I think now he's grown up and gotten better every year and that's what I'm trying to do. I kind of hope these next seven years of my quarterback days are my best."
While Manning is regarded as a very good quarterback by many -- he has led the Giants to the playoffs in four of his seven seasons as the full-time starter -- there is often hesitation to place him among the elite in the game.
Manning was fifth in the league in passing yards (4,002) and fourth in touchdown passes (31) last season, but his 25 interceptions is the number that jumps out the most.
When explaining why he feels he's an elite quarterback, Manning said the Giants have an offense that puts him in a good situation. Their physical run game opens the play-action, a facet of the game that he performs well in. He recalled just one interception on play-action and said he's good with the ball in those situations.
"I'm not a 25-interception quarterback, I know that," Manning said. "That's going to be fixed and it should be a good year."
It could be a challenge for Manning to live up to his claim this year, as the Giants swung and missed on their receiving targets this offseason.
Two of Manning's former safety valves, tight end Kevin Boss and wide receiver Steve Smith, have signed with new teams, with Boss heading to Oakland and Smith signing with NFC East rival Philadelphia. It's still unknown who will be the Giants' No. 3 receiver at this point.
The Giants also watched Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress spurn them to sign with the New York Jets, despite Burress coming to the Giants' facility and meeting with former teammates and coach Tom Coughlin. During Burress' brief stay, however, he and Manning didn't meet; Manning said he was busy preparing.
Though the two worked well together on the field in their nearly four seasons together, highlighted by their Super Bowl title in 2007, Manning didn't visit Burress while he was in prison on a firearms charge. Manning said he called Burress once he got out of prison in June, but didn't want to have it be a big deal if he visited Burress.
Manning said Tuesday that he was indecisive on some aspects of whether he wanted to reunite with the talented, troublesome receiver, without saying yes or no as to whether he wanted Burress back. He also reiterated why he didn't publicly lobby for Burress to rejoin the Giants.
"I didn't want to put my owners in a spot. I didn't want to put my other teammates in a spot [by] saying that I thought we needed him because then, all of a sudden, it would be in the papers that Eli didn't think his receivers were good enough or something like that," Manning said.
"It's not my job to go out there and promote for somebody. I'm trying to get better and if they want to bring him in, great, and we'll get back to work and see how we can get better. I didn't know what the circumstances were. It wasn't going to be a case of me going after it and make a decision whether Plaxico is coming to the Giants. It was going to be some other factors."
In the end, it's clear that anyone in their right mind when comparing the two quarterbacks' stats side by side would see that Brady is clearly the superior quarterback. Not only are his on-field statistics better, but Tom also has great hair, a supermodel wife, an undeniable swagger, and an insatiable hunger to succeed. All those things and more are why we non-Patriots fans love to hate the Golden Boy.
Of course Eli Manning isn't in the same class as Tom Brady. But it's great that he believes he is, because that's the only way the Giants can be great and compete with the new look Philadelphia Eagles and the always talented Dallas Cowboys in what looks to be a competitive NFC East in 2011.
If Eli stays in his current mind-set, the Giants' season should be a success.