Eli Manning is just consistently inconsistent

Eli Manning | New York Giants

He's experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows, so while fans of the New York Giants are questioning whether their star quarterback is on the decline, it's quite simply in his nature to be inconsistent.

Is Eli Manning good or does Eli Manning stink? Giants fans go back and forth between the two opinions with great frequency considering that Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP who has never missed a game due to injury.

Yes, Manning's peaks are higher than his valleys are deep, and his durability is admirable. However, for a "franchise" guy who is "elite" at his position, Manning is a very inconsistent player.

Three times in the past seven years, the Giants' quarterback has thrown at least 20 interceptions in a season. The first time that happened, he recovered to lead the Giants to a Super Bowl win. The latter two times, in 2010 and 2013, the season ended with great disappointment.

Last year was so bad that it brought on questions about Manning's future with the team he has spent his entire NFL career with. The 27 interceptions he threw were a career high and his 18 touchdowns were his lowest figure since his rookie year. Manning also completed just 57.5 percent of his passes; most "elite" quarterbacks don't dip below 60 percent.

Of course, Manning wasn't the only problem with the offense in 2013. The offensive line failed to provide much protection at all, and the team's halfback issues crippled the running game. Still, Manning was expected to be a stabilizing force who could turn his team into more than a sum of its parts. That didn't happen last year.

That's why 2014 will be such a critical season for Manning. At age 33 and coming off of ankle surgery, there's a chance that his decline continues in some form (it would be hard to throw so many picks again, even if he tried). There's also the possibility that he rebounds from a bad season the way he always has.

After his 20-interception campaign in 2007, Manning threw just 10 picks in 2008 while leading the Giants to the top seed in the NFC. His 25 interceptions in 2010 were followed by Manning's best season ever in which he threw for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns. With the Giants spending so many resources in free agency this offseason, Manning is being counted on to bounce back and be a championship-caliber quarterback once again.

Since we've seen Manning play poorly before, we can't say for sure yet if he's truly in decline. It's not as though quarterbacks in their 30s are all over the hill. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Manning's brother Peyton have all been capable of great things during the third decade of their lives. Is Manning on that track as well?

Again, because Manning isn't as consistent a performer as those great players, it's impossible to say for sure, but a good sign for No. 10 can be seen in his 2004 draft class. That sign is Philip Rivers, who endured one of his worst ever campaigns in 2012 before posting a 69.5 completion percentage with 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions in 2013.

If new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo can have a similar effect on Manning as the rookie Chargers coach Mike McCoy had on Rivers, the Giants could be headed for a very successful season.

That would be a relief for Giants fans, because if their quarterback truly is about to decline further, the team is going to have some tough decisions to make in 2015.

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