Mailbag: Sam Bradford and Eli Manning

Via the NFC West mailbag, Ryan from Montreal sees parallels between Eli Manning and Sam Bradford through their first three seasons.

Both quarterbacks were drafted No. 1 overall in their classes. Both endured criticism during some rocky stretches. Both also flashed the talent that made them highly drafted players.

Eli Manning vs. Sam Bradford: 1st 3 Yrs.

We know how the story has played out for Manning. He moved past the early struggles, becoming a top starting quarterback (most of the time) and winning two Super Bowls.

"I could be wrong," Ryan writes, "but I feel like some of the rhetoric Bradford is experiencing existed with Manning. Though Manning had a better record, a quick look at their stats reveals they are not too dissimilar."

Good idea, Ryan. The chart shows statistical similarities. We do not yet have Total QBR figures before 2008, but the traditional stats line up pretty closely in areas such as yards per pass attempt.

Manning did enjoy one tremendous advantage. The New York Giants organization has been among the most stable in the league. Manning has had the same head coach, Tom Coughlin, and offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, for the duration of his career. Bradford has had two head coaches and three offensive coordinators in his first three seasons.

Manning and the Giants broke through with a Super Bowl victory in Manning's fourth season. Manning finished that 2007 regular season with 23 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. The ratio was 6-1 in the playoffs as the Giants won road games against Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay before upsetting New England in the Super Bowl.

The Giants went from 8-8 in Manning's third season to 10-6 in his fourth. Bradford and the Rams were 7-8-1 last season. Conventional wisdom says the Rams will be the third-best team in the NFC West. The 2007 Giants finished second to Philadelphia in the NFC East. Before that season, 16 of 16 ESPN analysts picked someone other than the Giants to win the NFC.