Read Ernie Accorsi’s 2002 scouting report of Eli Manning, in its entirety
The run that Eli Manning and the New York Giants put together this post-season was nothing short of remarkable, and after earning his second Super Bowl MVP, Manning has officially entered the pantheon of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks. For Giants fans, Manning’s success is vindication for the now-legendary 2004 draft day trade that brought Eli to New York instead of guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers … it’s like we’ve watched him grow up before our very eyes and finally become the franchise quarterback we always hoped he could be.
But even the most pro-Eli fans in the world would admit to periods of doubt while watching Manning struggle through his early growing pains. The most memorable example was after his fourth NFL start as a rookie against the fearsome Baltimore Ravens, when Ray Lewis and Ed Reed turned young Eli into a quivering mess on the field, going 4 of 18 for 27 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions: a 0.0 passer rating. Many people thought it would be the end of little brother, but he ended up bouncing back the following week in a showdown against Big Ben, earning is teammates respect, and leading the Giants on what would become the first of many 4th quarter comebacks in the final game of the season against Dallas. There was something about this kid, after all.
Former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi – the man who pulled the trigger on that fateful draft day trade – saw something special in Eli all the way back in 2002, when he was just a junior at Ole Miss. That November, Accorsi went to Oxford, Missisippi to watch Manning take on Jason Campbell and the heavily favored Auburn Tigers … and what he saw on that day changed Giants franchise history forever.
From Accorsi’s summary:
Throws the ball, takes the hit, gets right back up… Has courage and poise. In my opinion, most of all, he has that quality you can’t define. Call it magic. As [former Baltimore Colts defensive back] Bobby Boyd told me once about Unitas, “Two things set him apart: his left testicle and his right testicle.”…
Read Accorsi’s entire scouting report from the game below, as re-printed from Tom Callahan’s book The GM: The Inside Story of a Dream Job and the Nightmares That Go With It.
With the benefit of hindsight, and after watching Eli pull out comeback after comeback for his team as a pro, Accorsi’s assessment of Manning from almost ten years ago is insanely accurate and prescient. The traits he identified during one college game – courage, poise, toughness and that indefinable “magic” – are exactly what have allowed Eli to succeed in the NFL, almost down to the play (like the streaking pass down the left sideline, dropped perfectly over the shoulder of his receiver … sound familiar?).
It’s a report that will go down in Giants lore as a treasured historical document, to be marveled at by generations of football fans to come. And it makes Accorsi look like a freakin’ genius.
READ THE FULL SCOUTING REPORT AFTER THE JUMP
Nov 2, 2002 – Ole Miss vs Auburn
Wears left knee brace… During pregame warmup, didn’t look like he had a rocket arm… As game progressed, I saw excellent arm strength under pressure and the ability to get velocity on the ball on most throws. Good deep ball range. Good touch. Good vision and poise.
Sees the field… In shotgun on most plays and his only running option is a draw… his offensive line is poor. Red-shirt freshman left tackle. Eli doesn’t trust his protection. Can’t. No way he can take any form of a deep drop and look downfield. With no running game (10 yards rushing the first half) and no real top receivers, he’s stuck with the three-step drops and waiting til the last second to see if a receiver can get free. No tight end either. No flaring back. So he’s taking some big hits. Taking them well. Carried an overmatched team entirely on his shoulders. I imagine, except for Vanderbilt, his team is overmatched in every SEC game… He’s big, never gets rattled. Rallied his team from a 14-3 halftime deficit basically all by himself. Led them on two successive third quarter drives to go ahead, 17-16. The first touchdown, a 40-yard streak down the left sideline, he dropped the ball over the receiver’s right shoulder. Called the next touchdown pass himself, checking off to a 12-yard slant… Makes a lot of decisions on play calls at the line of scrimmage, but they ask too much of him. They don’t just let him play. This is a guy you should just let play… When he’s inaccurate, he’s usually high, but rarely off target to either side… Plays smart and with complete confidence. Doesn’t scold his teammates, but lets them know when they line up wrong or run the wrong pattern… Threw three interceptions. Two were his fault. Trying to force something both times. He could have run on one of them, a fourth down play. He has a lot to learn.
Summary: I think he’s the complete package. He’s not going to be a fast runner, but a little like Joe Montana, he has enough athletic ability to get out of trouble. Remember how Archie ran? In that department, Eli doesn’t have the best genes, although I never timed mom Olivia in the 40. But he has a feel for the pocket. Feels the rush.
Throws the ball, takes the hit, gets right back up… Has courage and poise. In my opinion, most of all, he has that quality you can’t define. Call it magic. As [former Baltimore Colts defensive back] Bobby Boyd told me once about Unitas, “Two things set him apart: his left testicle and his right testicle.”… Peyton had much better talent around him at Tennessee. But I honestly give this guy a chance to be better than his brother. Eli doesn’t get much help from the coaching staff. If he comes out early, we should move up to take him. These guys are rare, you know.