Is Eli Elite: Phil Simms says no, debate ranges again

By now, you know the story. Two Augusts ago, Eli Manning told ESPN Radio in New York he believed he was an elite quarterback, in the same class as Tom-freaking-Brady.

When all of the naysayers laughed and made jokes at his expense, what did Manning do — he went out and led the Giants’ Super Bowl charge. Poetically, he had to beat Tom Brady’s Patriots twice in the process.

When it was all said and done, Manning was unanimously proclaimed elite by broadcasters, players and analysts alike. Suddenly, that joke back in August wasn’t so funny.

Recently, though, Manning has been in the midst of a devastating slide. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown in the last three games, coinciding with two Giants losses.

Reports have surfaced suggesting Manning is dealing with a tired arm, though the Giants’ two-time Lombardi Trophy-hoisting quarterback has denied it until he was (big) blue in the face.

Despite the slump, no one had questioned whether Manning was still an “elite quarterback.” That was until former Giants great Phil Simms addressed the topic Monday night on CBS Sports Network’s NFL Monday QB show.

“No, he is not one of the elites,” Simms said. “Because when I hear the word elite, I’m thinking about guys that can make unbelievable plays on the field by themselves. There are very few quarterbacks in that category.

“So yes, Eli has been a tremendous team player. He has been MVP of the Super Bowl twice. I know that. But the way I look at it, the answer is no.”

To be fair, Ben Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls for the Pittsburgh Steelers and he has consistently been left off the exclusive list of elite quarterbacks.

Often, it’s Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers who get all of the attention. Eli was being mentioned among that class for the first time after his second title.

Apparently, Simms is guilty of being a prisoner of the moment. Every great quarterback hits a bump in the road — whether it is a tired arm or some dysfunction within the Giants’ offense. I don’t think it’s enough to reduce what Manning has done so far in his career.

However, the debate ranges on.

What do you think, Giants nation?

Follow Sam on Twitter @SamSpiegs