The timing was impeccable. With quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tony Romo set to square of on "Monday Night Football," Sports Illustrated rolled out a survey suggesting both of them were among the top-five overrated players in the league.
The magazine asked 239 NFL players to participate in the survey, and honestly, the results weren't surprising. The players were misguided, however, in ranking Romo and Manning so high on the list. They are each indispensable to their teams, and the survey was conducted in the preseason, when Romo's 26 touchdown passes against only nine interceptions should've been fresh on everyone's minds.
Romo and Manning always score high in this annual survey, although it's for different reasons. Because the Cowboys are God's gift to overnight TV ratings, players experience a condition commonly referred to as "Romo fatigue." Because of which uniform he wears and his storybook path to the league, Romo was granted stardom before he'd actually accomplished much of anything.
If ESPN.com conducted a survey asking players across the league to name their top 10 quarterbacks, I believe Romo and Manning would both make the list. Romo's not overrated as much as he is overexposed. He also happens to play for a team that most players despise. Giants Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck spent 20 minutes recently telling me how much respect he had for Romo as a quarterback. But if you put a survey in front of him this afternoon, he'd likely say Romo was overrated just to stick it to Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.
Manning and Romo have flip-flopped in our mythical NFC East quarterback power rankings at least seven or eight times over the years. In a 2007 game at Giants Stadium, Romo threw four touchdowns and completed 71.4 percent of his passes in the Cowboys' 31-20 win. Romo was at his improvisational best that day as he would spin away from defenders to deliver strikes. Meanwhile, Manning threw two interceptions and was sacked five times in that game.
The New York tabloids celebrated Romo's stylish performance in a way that mocked Manning. On that afternoon, it looked like Romo had clearly surpassed Manning. We all know the rest of that story. Manning helped lead the Giants to a stunning Super Bowl victory that season, which was fueled by an upset of the division-champion Cowboys at Texas Stadium.
This season, Romo and Manning have similar statistics. Romo has thrown 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions, Manning 10 TDs and eight INTs. Entering Week 7. only Drew Brees has a higher completion percentage than Romo's 69.4 percent, and Manning's not far behind at 64.7.
To me, Manning's always going to show up on these "overrated" lists because his first name isn't Peyton. His older brother is already considered one of the best quarterbacks in league history, so Eli's dealing with unrealistic expectations. I'm not even sure another Super Bowl ring would immunize Eli from future overrated lists.
"I think anyone who understands football appreciates Eli Manning,” center Shaun O’Hara told reporters when asked about the SI survey. “I think he’d get a lot more appreciation if his last name was anything but Manning. That’s just kind of the gift and the curse he’ll have to live with.
"I don’t know how a Super Bowl MVP could ever be overrated,” O’Hara said. “I’ll put that one to rest."
In order to be overrated, a fair amount of folks have to think pretty highly of you. But on Monday night at Cowboys Stadium, surveys won't matter. Based on the Giants' 4-2 record and the Cowboys' current state (poor), I think Manning is once again perceived to be better than Romo. But as often happens in this rivalry, things could flip in a hurry.
That's what happens when two "overrated" quarterbacks get together.