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Eli Manning, John Unitas and the 1958 Championship

Two interesting threads have been often discussed the past week and a half after the Super Bowl:

1) Should Bradshaw have gone down at the 1 yard line to kill more clock and kick the FG?

2) Eli as a QB that has a very special ability to win games in Q4/playoffs.

Some people have posited the question- is Eli a Hall of Famer?  I prefer not to get into that question, as I feel it is less meaningful at the current time.  What I do find meaningful to understand is- where Eli is with respect to his peers in leading his team to Q4 comebacks.  Someone asked me on email who else was there with (or better than) Eli in Q4 comebacks, and my quick response was Unitas, Staubach and Elway.  Why did I answer those three?  Because my father always talked about the Q4 prowess of Unitas, and I repeatedly saw firsthand how Staubach and Elway were lethal at the end of a game.

Interestingly and not so uncoincidentally, Cold Hard Football Facts discussed precisely the same question.  I was somewhat confused not see Staubach on the list, but not surprised to see Unitas and Elway there.

My father, aka Marvelous, recounts Johnny U:

As I’m 85, I have seen so many thru all of their careers.  John Unitas was my choice as the man I’d LOVE to be under center.  He was MORE STEADY than most of these QB’s & his receivers were average to good with the EXCEPTION of Berry.  Berry was was not fast but he ran perfect routes & had great hands.  Unitas & Berry were so in tune with one another!

That last drive (1958 Championship) was brilliantly accomplished.  Precision-like.  I was there too.  And I knew (KNEW!) it was over before John took them to that first huddle.  The Colts had balance.  Alan “the  horse” Ameche scored the  winner ONLY  because the team played to WIN their owner’s huge wager!  They can deny it till doomsday arrives.  I was freezing.  The Giants  D was VERY STRONG too.  All the Colts needed was a FG but even down at the goal line they went for the points  that owner  Carroll Rosenbloom needed to win his bet! What if Ameche fumbled & they went on to lose?? That would have made a fantastic story.

To now have a Giants QB in his prime, a calm and lethal assasin in the 4th Quarter, is a tremendous weapon for the gmen.  The combination of Eli’s elevated consistency throughout the game, throughout the season and at the end of every game is going to make the Giants competitive with anyone, be it Brees, Rodgers, anyone.  To gather the full dimension of this impact, we relink to the Bill Simmons piece the day after the Super Bowl to understand facing Eli through the opponent’s eyes:

“Five minutes left. Two more first downs and it’s a wrap. Don’t give Eli the ball back. Don’t give Eli the ball back. Don’t give Eli the ball back. At least I saw the bullet coming this time.

Sound familiar?  It’s Eli Unitas!