Breakfast links: Players whiff on Eli

May, 26, 2011
5/26/11
8:00
AM ET
Morning. Quick little bit of background here. All this stuff we do and debate here that involves rankings and voting? Not my first rodeo. In 17 years as a professional sportswriter, you do a lot of it. I covered baseball long enough that I have a Hall of Fame vote in that sport. I know how hard it is to make those lists and sift through all of the numbers and information and make a judgment about whether one player is or was "better" than another.

Very often, of course, those of us who do this kind of voting are criticized for our decisions. Very often, we are told that sportswriters aren't qualified to make such decisions, and that it should be left to the players, because who would know better than the players who's truly good at the games they themselves play?

That argument sounds good the first time you hear it, but unfortunately it doesn't hold up. When players are asked to vote on these things, we see that they bring their own issues to it. Bias. Personal grudges. Shortsightedness. Many are simply too close to their fellow players to be able to make reasoned decisions about how to rank them against each other.

The point? Ah, yes. You'll be wanting that. My point today is about this list the NFL Network did where it asked the players to rank the top 100 players of 2011. Specifically, my point is about the fact that Giants quarterback Eli Manning isn't in that top 100. This, as it has been suggested to me several times over the past couple of days by readers, is absurd, and these readers want to know how it could possibly happen. How could NFL players really leave Manning off this list and put Josh Freeman and Donovan McNabb on it?

It's a very good question, and I don't have the answer. For that, you need to ask the players who voted. I have a guess, of course, and that guess is "money."

Players in all sports use money to rank themselves against each other. If Player A makes more money than Player B does, but Player B believes he's better than Player A is, Player B begins to think irrationally about Player A -- to focus on the things about Player A he deems insufficient. To say things like, "Player A isn't that good," or "Player A is overrated." Eli Manning made big news back in 2009 when he signed a contract that made him (for a time) the league's highest-paid quarterback. Players remember that, and they probably still think Eli makes more money than he should. They may even be correct. But in spite of the interceptions and whatever other deficiencies you may perceive about Eli Manning, he belonged on that list somewhere.

On, then, to the links:

More Giants

Offensive lineman James Brewer, picked by the Giants in the fourth round last month, is relieved that the league canceled the rookie symposium, Paul Schwartz writes. Why? Well, because Brewer figures he doesn't need it. "I don't think I need someone to tell me not to hit women and stuff like that. I think I kind of know that already," Brewer tells Schwartz. Charming.

Speaking of Giants saying dumb things, Mike Vaccaro took issue with former Giant Tiki Barber comparing himself to Anne Frank, and I can't say as I blame Mike. Can't think of too many ex-athletes who've made themselves look more completely foolish with their immediate post-career behavior than Tiki has.

Dallas Cowboys

Rainer Sabin doesn't expect the Cowboys to be one of the teams in danger of being fined for players making too many excessive or flagrant hits. Under new rules passed this week, the league can fine a team if it decides there's a pattern of that team's behavior in violation of the crackdown on dangerous hits. But Sabin points out that only four Cowboys players were fined at all for such infractions in 2010 and only one -- Anthony Spencer -- was banged more than once. There's a joke in here somewhere.

Football Outsiders ranks the Cowboys' 2009 trade of three draft picks to the Lions for Roy Williams as the ninth-worst trade of the past 25 years. This is an Insider article, so if you're not an Insider just call me and I'll give you my password so you can read it. But in case I don't answer, know that it points out that the Lions didn't exactly use those picks to build the foundations of a dynasty. They got Brandon Pettigrew with the first-rounder, and they like him, but the third- and fifth-rounders turned into Derrick Williams and Aaron Brown. The point, from the Cowboys' end, is that they may well could have used at least one of those picks on someone who might have helped them more in 2009 and 2010 than Roy Williams did.

Philadelphia Eagles

Checking in from Eagles player workouts, Jeff McLane reports that Mike Kafka is "ready to take the next step" and be Michael Vick's backup if Kevin Kolb is traded. That's nice, and I know they like Kafka as a developmental guy. But with Vick an injury risk, if the Eagles trade Kolb they'll need to bring in a backup they believe can start now and give them a chance to win games. It's unlikely they feel that way about Kafka right now. Matt Williamson thinks Vince Young is a great fit in Philly as Vick's backup, and I believe that might just be a perfect arrangement. Surely, Andy Reid and the Eagles don't fear their own ability to coach something out of Young's talent so that it's there when/if they need it.

Jeff's been busy (thankfully) doing things other than providing updates from player-organized workouts. He offers this nice profile of Jaiquawn Jarrett and his upbringing in basketball-crazed Brooklyn.

Washington Redskins

I did not know that the Redskins' first-round pick, Ryan Kerrigan, was deaf in his left ear. Clearly, this isn't an issue that detracts from his ability to play football, since he was able to do that well enough at Purdue to become a first-round NFL draft pick. But it's an interesting story of a kid who had something rough happen to him when he was 8 years old and managed to overcome it. I like those stories.

Speaking of overcoming things, Brandon Banks tells CSN Washington he's 90 percent healthy and enjoying being on the field for workouts three months after he was stabbed outside a D.C. nightclub.

All right. That's enough. Have a good day out there, everybody, and don't get captured.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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