Giants All-Time Great Quarterbacks

As the Giants prepare for the 2019 season the question arises as to when the transition to new rookie quarterback, Daniel Jones, will occur. It got me thinking about Eli Manning and other great Giant quarterbacks. I came up with a query on pro football reference to pull out some of the great quarterbacks that may or may not be recognized in the general population. The career query I used is

Yds/Pass Att >= 6.8 and
Passing Yds/Game >= 120 and
Passing TD % >= 4.3 and
Win % > 50%
Games Started >= 15

The above query yields ten quarterbacks for only the 2018 season:

Drew Brees
Jared Goff
Mitchell Trubisky
Patrick Mahomes
Philip Rivers
Tom Brady
Deshaun Watson
Andrew Luck
Russell Wilson
Ben Roethlisberger

When applied to career statistics since 1920 the query without the Win percentage yielded 96 quarterbacks. Applying a > 50% win percentage narrowed the list to 63 quarterbacks. I removed Bobby Hebert as while he met the criteria for his career he did not meet it on any one team. I added in Super Bowl quarterbacks that did not meet the career criteria but did meet the criteria on one team. They were Jim Plunkett, Jeff Hostetler and Jim McMahon. The final list has 65 unique quarterbacks and seven of those met the criteria on two teams for a total of 72 team instances.

Forty-four of the sixty-five quarterbacks played in a Super Bowl or championship game comprising 68% of the list.  Only seven Super Bowl quarterbacks did not make the list. They were as follows with the reason:

Joe Namath – Win %
Doug Williams – Win %
Troy Aikman – TD % (3.5)
John Elway – TD % (4.1)
Trent Dilfer – TD%, Win %
Brad Johnson – TD% (4.0)
Joe Flacco – Yd/Att (6.7), TD % (3.7)

The breakdown of quarterbacks on the list by teams are

4 with 0 NYJ BAL TEN JAX
7 with 1 ARI ATL BUF CHI DET NOR TAM
9 with 2 CAR CIN DEN HTX KAN MIA NWE SEA WAS
6 with 3 IND GNB MIN PIT SDG SFO
2 with 4 NYG CLE
3 with 5 DAL RAM RAI
1 with 6 PHI

 

Here are the four Giants quarterbacks that met the criteria and are arguably the best Giants quarterbacks in Giant history. it expands on a key achievement or attribute of each quarterback.

Eli Manning – “Easy Eli”

Clutch

Manning is eleventh in career 4th quarter comebacks with 27. He is ninth in career game winning drives with 37.  Eli Manning is tie with Joe Montana for third in post-season game-winning drives with five. He is tie at third for post-season 4th quarter comebacks with four. These statistics are maintained since 1960.

Manning is cool and collected. Nothing seems to rattle him. He will take a beating and keeps fighting. That was how it was in their 2011 drive to a Super Bowl victory. In the NFC Championship game against the 49ers Eli Manning took a total beating. Manning took 18 hits, was knocked down 12 times and sacked six times. The game was tie at 17-17 after the fourth quarter and went to overtime. The Giants win on a field goal following a forced fumble on the 49ers punt return.

The next game, Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants were down 15-17 when they got the ball at their 12 yard line with 3:46 left to play. On the first play of the drive Manning completes a career perfect pass to Mario Manningham near the sideline for a 38 yard gain. Manning then went on to complete 4 of 5 passes for another 36 yards. Interspersed were two Ahmad Bradshaw runs for eight yards. The drive was capped off by a six yard touchdown run by Bradshaw which the Patriots allowed to get the ball back with 0:57 left to play. The Giants held the Patriots and orchestrated one of the greatest Super Bowl 4th quarter comebacks.

Relatively recently in the 2016 season Manning had six game winning drives which was third best in the league.

Eli Manning

Precise , Accurate

Manning leads Giants quarterbacks in career completion percentage for quarterbacks with 300+ attempts. He has a career 60.3% completion percentage. Manning has a decent completion percentage on a high volume of career passing attempts. Of the 38 active quarterbacks with 300+ career passing attempts and a 60% or better completion percentage, Eli Manning is sixteenth in passing yards per game. Manning is fourth in Super Bowl completion percentage (75% in XLVI) and fourth in career Super Bowl completion percentage (66.2%). Eli’s last five seasons have a completion percentage above his career average and in 2018 Eli had a career high 66% completion percentage. That was good for 16th in the league. In December 2018 Manning was in the top ten for most throws 20+ yards downfield. He had the highest completion percentage for those throws on the list.

According to Pro Football Focus, in 2018 Eli had 75.8% of his passes as catch-able which was fifth best in the league.  Pro Football Focus also reports that Manning had a 76.2% adjusted completion percentage on third downs which was fourth in the league.

Phil Simms – “Tough as nails”

Tough

First let me say that most NFL quarterbacks or even players are tough. The Giants have a long history of tough quarterbacks including Charlie Conerly, Y.A. Tittle, Phil Simms and Eli Manning. I highlight Phil Simms as tough because that was one of his more outstanding attributes, whereas other tough Giant quarterbacks had other more outstanding achievements or attributes.

Simms was known for standing in the pocket to that last second to let the receivers get open and taking the hit. He is sixth all-time in times sacked (477). Of the top 100 quarterback all-time leaders in taking sacks Simms ranks tenth in sacks per games started with three. He leads all Giants in sacks per game for quarterbacks with 10+ career starts. (One note is that sack totals were not kept prior to 1965. So players such as Y.A. Tittle and Charlie Conerly are not in those calculations.)

When strength coach Johnny Parker introduced a new heavy lifting weight training program to the team, Phil Simms approached him and said he wanted to work with him. Parkman responded that he hadn’t developed a program for the quarterbacks yet. To which Simms responded that he wanted to do what everyone else was doing. So Simms was working out in the weight room with the linemen.

Simms was also mentally tough. He endured many boos starting with his draft selection and continuing through much of his career. He was always a backup quarterback away from being benched. He did not let that phase him. Phil battled thru injuries and missed 36 games due to injury in his first 5 seasons (including all of 1982). Yet he went on to lead the Giants to their first Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl XXI. Phil Simms holds the record for the highest passer rating in a Super Bowl, at 150.92 in that Super Bowl. He went on to lead the Giants up to another Super Bowl before getting injured and replaced by Jeff Hostetler. Hostetler went on to help win the Giants second Super Bowl.

Phil Simms and Charlie Conerly are the two best Giant rookie quarterbacks. Phil Simms holds the record for Super Bowl Passer Rating (150.9) and Pass Completion Percentage (88%).

Phil did not have a nickname so I used a quote from Bill Parcells:

“Phil is the type of guy who you always want on your side because he’s as tough as nails, He’s got that soft blond fluffy hair, but you wouldn’t want to mess with him….”

Y.A. Tittle – “Old Reliable”

Bottom Line Guy

Y.A. Tittle has the highest win percentage (67%) among Giants quarterbacks and also the highest touchdowns per game at 2 touchdowns per game.  Tittle threw an NFL-record 33 touchdown passes in 1962 and then a year later threw for 36. The 1963 record stood until Dan Marino broke it in 1984.  Tittle had a 7.3% touchdowns to pass attempts for his four years on the Giants. Not only is that the best in Giants history but it would be third best among career TD% except the Giants was not all of Tittle’s career. Of the top 100 quarterbacks for career wins Tittle’s 66.67% win percentage while on the Giants would rank 12th in career win percentage. Of course Tittle’s career spanned more than just his four years on the Giants. His career win percentage puts him at 64th on the list. Tittle’s best years were on the Giants. In his four years on the Giants he led the team to three consecutive Championship Games. Unfortunately the were unable to win them.

Tittle was another tough player. He played through numerous injuries in his lifetime including a broken toe, a separated shoulder, a broken cheekbone, a broken arm, broken ribs and a cracked sternum. Tittle would stand in the pocket and take a hit not worried about the onslaught of defensive players but focused on his receivers downfield.

Charlie Conerly – “Chuckin Charlie Conerly”

Passing Touchdown %

When Charlie Conerly was a little boy in Mississippi he wanted to play professional football for the New York Giants when he grew up. Conerly would go on to go to Ole Miss where he started at quarterback in 1942. After the 1942 season he enrolled in the Marines during World War II and fought in the battle of Guam. He had a rifle shot out of his hands by a Japanese sniper. While in the South Pacific Charlie received word that the Redskins had drafted him as his class had graduated and he was eligible for the draft. After the War Charlie returned to Ole Miss in 1946 at the age of 25. He played two more seasons at Ole Miss where he led the Rebels to their first Southeastern Conference championship. That year he was a Consensus All-American and First Team All-SEC.

The Redskins traded Conerly to the Giants where Conerly played his rookie season in 1948 at the age of 27. Conerly was named 1948 NFL Rookie of the Year. He led all rookie quarterbacks that year in completions, touchdown passes and passing yards per game. Conerly and Phil Simms are the two best Giants rookie quarterbacks.

Like the other quarterbacks listed here, Charlie Conerly was tough. Sacks were not kept as a statistic back in Charlie’s time. However he had poor O-line protection for a lot of his years. In a 1952 game against the Eagles, Conerly was sacked 17 times. At age 32 Charlie retired. But new head coach Jim Howell promised Charlie to get better protection for him and convinced Charlie to return. During his rookie season, Frank Gifford watched Conerly suffer a terrible injury—and stay in the game:

He broke his nose really badly, they literally called a timeout and then they called another one while they stopped the bleeding, they stuck stuff up there until it would stop bleeding.

Charlie Conerly is first among Giant quarterbacks in career yards per completion (minimum 1500 attempts).  In his fourteen year career on the Giants Conerly was in the top ten in yards per completion in the league for eleven seasons. He was number one in 1959 with 15.1 yards.  He is number 26 on the all-time yards per completion record list with 13.7 yards. No current quarterback has a better career yards per completion.

Charlie Conerly is number nine on the all-time league TD percentage list. That is the percent of touchdown passes per pass attempts. Aaron Rodgers is the only current quarterback with a better percentage. Conerly is number one on the Giants list for TD % (minimum 1500 attempts).  Y.A. Tittle has a higher percent but only 1308 attempts.

Charlie Conerly was the oldest winner of the NFL MVP award receiving it in 1959 at the age of 38. Conerly stood as the oldest recipient until Tom Brady won the award in 2018.  He was the oldest quarterback to play in the NFL at 40 in 1961. He held that distinction until Earl Morrall took in 1976 at age 42. Charlie Conerly was a three-time All Pro quarterback. He guided the Giants to the NFL championship game three times and was a winner once. Many have said Chuckin Charlie Conerly is the best quarterback not in the Hall Of Fame.

In Conclusion

Here is the full list of quarterbacks that met the criteria sorted by team – QB Criteria. The quarterbacks that appeared in a Super Bowl or Championship Game are highlighted in yellow.

The Giants have a good history of great quarterbacks. These guys generally fit a type of tough leaders. Some have been quiet lead by example guys like Charlie Conerly and Eli Manning. All four have been tough players that played through whatever adversity came their way. I would consider them blue collar lunch pail type guys in the Giants tradition. The Giants new rookie quarterback, Daniel Jones, seem to fit that mold like Eli did. It is an exciting time for the franchise as one great quarterback attempts another shot at the playoffs and a new rookie practices for a future hand-off of the quarterback position.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *