Is this the best Eli Giants will get? Sunday Morning QB Nov 26, 2006 Tiki Barber is doing an awful lot of whining on his way out the door. His mouth, however, is just a short-term problem for the Giants. He's gone after this season. The long-term problem involves Eli Manning. What happens if Manning just doesn't get any better than he is right now? What happens if this is all there is? "There is a chance of that," one GM said last week. "He doesn't have his brother's awareness. He's not as accurate. We shouldn't expect he would be Peyton. "You can win with this guy. Is he getting managed right? I don't know that. That is the intangible only they know. I'm not going to throw him out yet, but I think there is a ceiling on the guy. You have to surround him, you got to have a good running game and reel him in. Don't give him the game and make him win it. Don't let him lose the game. Don't assume he's Johnny U." Considering what the Giants gave up to get Manning, they had every right to expect more at this point than just someone to manage the game. If he is just an average quarterback, the Giants set themselves back at least five years. Two weeks ago, before the Giants played the Bears, it looked like Manning had become a resilient and resourceful quarterback who could carry a team down the stretch, even if he didn't put up the flashy numbers. But he has regressed. In the losses to the Bears and Jaguars, he is a combined 33-for-73, which is an unacceptable 45.2% completion percentage, with one TD and four INTs. The Giants, on the verge of imploding after two straight losses, need a victory today in Nashville to tie the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East at 7-4. That will set up exactly the same scenario as one year ago when the Giants and Cowboys also met tied for first at 7-4 at Giants Stadium. The Giants beat them 17-10 and went on to win the NFC East for the first time since 2000. Dallas missed the playoffs. Who would have thought the Giants would do backflips if Manning was just playing as well as Dallas' Tony Romo, a fourth-year quarterback who had not thrown a pass coming into this season? But next week Romo has the chance to complete a daily double: Beat both of the Manning brothers in the same season. He is coming off a five-TD performance against the Bucs on Thanksgiving. Eli Manning had a look in his eye in Jacksonville that made the Giants uncomfortable. He looked lost. "He gets flustered. He doesn't have his brother's intangibles. I've always said that," another GM said. "I thought Philip Rivers was more like Peyton than his own brother when he came out. Eli is starting to get exposed now. He's not really grown up. He can't handle pressure real well. When things start going south, he lets it get to him. He's got to get through that." Is this the best the Giants will see from him? "Temporarily, yes," the GM said. Although injuries were the major reason, Phil Simms' career didn't take off until his sixth year in the league. John Elway struggled early. So did Troy Aikman. The Giants need results now. In the days after the Giants traded Rivers and first- and third- and fifth-round picks to the Chargers for Manning in 2004, I polled 17 GMs, head coaches, assistant coaches and executives and asked them to pick the winner of the Giants-Chargers trade. It was overwhelmingly in favor of San Diego, 13-4. The Chargers converted the Giants' picks into LB Shawne Merriman, PK Nate Kaeding and traded the fifth-rounder to Tampa for OT Roman Oben, a former Giant. Rivers threw only 30 passes in his first two years as Drew Brees' backup. If Brees had not suffered a severe shoulder injury in the final game of last season - it required surgery - Rivers still may not be playing. Brees was a free agent and San Diego, scared off by his injury, lowballed him with $2 million guaranteed. Brees received $10 million guaranteed from the Saints. Rivers is 8-2 starting for the Chargers, has 15 TDs and only five INTs and has led back-to-back comebacks from deficits of at least 17 points, the first time that's happened in NFL history. Before anointing him the next Dan Marino, however, can we see him get the Chargers into the playoffs first? But if he wins the Super Bowl one year after Ben Roethlisberger did it will make the Giants squirm. They had their choice of Manning, Rivers or Roethlisberger in 2004. One of our panel members offered this evaluation 31 months ago: "There is a chance the Giants traded the better of the two quarterbacks. Rivers was the MVP of four different bowl games. He's exceptionally smart. He's one of the five smartest quarterbacks in our league. It will be interesting to grade his career and Eli's. Three years from now, we will get a feel for who made out." It is approaching the end of the third year. If the Giants have seen the best of Eli Manning, they are in trouble.