Eli silences his critics by leading Giants to a second Super Bowl
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012, 11:20 PM
INDIANAPOLIS — By big-mouth New York standards, it wasn’t really much of a boast. But this was Eli Manning, the aw-shucks kid, and so it became a very big deal last August when Manning went on Michael Kay’s radio show and said he should be ranked right up there with Tom Bradyand other elite NFL quarterbacks.
“I consider myself in that class,” said Manning, declaring himself among the “Top 10, Top 5” quarterbacks in the league.
There was considerable fuss about that then, because Manning was coming off a self-destructive 2010 season filled with interceptions and tough losses. All he’s done since then, though, is lead the Giants to the Super Bowl with one fourth-quarter comeback after another. He’s cut down on the mistakes, developed synchronicity with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. And now, if he wins a second title on Sunday by beating Brady, Manning’s preseason claim will seem more humble than pretentious.
“For Eli it would be a great endorsement of the quality of football player he is, what kind of football season he has had and what he means to our team,” Tom Coughlin said. “He is an elite quarterback. Period.”
Immodesty seems to have paid off for Manning, as it has for some of the greatest New York athletes who were revered as much for their audacity as their performance. Our city loves braggarts, at least the ones who deliver on their promises. The best ones have made outrageous guarantees, then thrilled us in victory. Others have bungled everything, losing the big one and eating their words.
The modern sports guarantee, at least the type that draws our attention, probably started with poetic Cassius Clay, who perfected the art as Muhammad Ali. In 1965, before his rematch with Sonny Liston, Ali described a dream to reporters in which he knocked out Liston in the first round. “I’m not the greatest. I’m the double greatest,” Ali would say. “Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round.”
Ali knocked out Liston less than two minutes into their bout with the so-called “phantom punch,” and from then on the spoiled rotten press was forever coaxing high-profile players to utter equally ambitious predictions. Here are some of the boasts by New York’s athletes that worked out, and some that blew up in their faces.