Worse Than Father, Worse Than Brother (UPDATED)
Comparing the Mannings to each other requires more than looking at their respective completion percentages and ranking them in that way. Due to the fact that each of them played their first two years as the leading pass attempter for their teams in different eras, the only way to really find out how well they were is to compare them to their peers and figure out where they rank.
In Archie Manning's first year as the quarterback that threw the most passes for the New Orleans Saints, he completed 51.3% of his 448 passes, the lowest percentage of the three Mannings for any of the six seasons I recorded. However, the passing game in 1972 was not the efficient yard-gaining device that it is today and the average completion percentage of the other NFL quarterbacks that attempted the most passes for their teams was 51.4%, making Archie basically an average quarterback.
Archie's second year saw him increase his completion percentage to 52.4%, but the average quarterback in 1973 completed 52.8% of his passes so Manning actually fell off relative to where he stood among his contemporaries in 1972. Manning was -.02 standard deviations below the average for 1972 and -.09 standard deviations below for 1973.
Twenty-five years later, during Peyton Manning's rookie year, quarterbacks had improved dramatically to the point where the average completion percentage was 57.3%. Since Peyton Manning had a completion percentage of 56.7%, his first year was actually a little worse than his father's due to the fact the percentage was -.16 standard deviations below the average.
Being worse than Archie only lasted a year for Peyton Manning as he had the second-best completion percentage (62.1%) in the NFL in 1999, one that put him 1.50 standard deviations above the average completion percentage (57.6%) of the quarterbacks meeting my criterion.
Then there is the youngest Manning, Eli. Even in the few years between 1999 and 2005, quarterbacks had become better passers and 59.9% was the average completion percentage for 2005. Unfortunately for Eli, his 52.8% landed him nowhere near the average and was in fact -1.48 standard deviations below it, which was the lowest mark for any of the Mannings in their first two years of their reigns as their respective teams' franchise quarterback. For an encore, Eli decided he would, in 2006, post a completion percentage -.50 standard deviations below the average, which is the second-lowest standard deviation for the Mannings.
No one ever wants to be the worst out of his or her family at a particular activity, but unless Eli Manning makes a huge turn-around in his career, he will hold that distinction in his family.
UPDATE: To those who were dissatisfied with the Mannings being ranked only by completion percentage standard deviations, disappointment will probably ensue after seeing that the Mannings' yards per pass attempt tell a similar story.
Under the aforementioned conditions, Archie Manning showed no improvement in yards per pass attempt between his 1972 mark of 6.2 yards per pass attempt and 1973's of 6.1 yards per pass attempt. Both numbers were -.75 standard deviations below the league averages.
In the same way Peyton Manning went from below average in completion percentage in his rookie season to way above average in his second year as the starting quarterback for the Colts, his yards per pass attempt increased, too. His rookie season saw him -.40 standard deviations below the league average of 6.9 and his sophomore campaign saw him 1.13 standard deviations above the league average of 6.9.
Eli Manning actually had his better year in terms of yards per pass attempt in the first year of being the Giants' leading pass attempter when he was right at the league average in 2005 of 6.8. The fact his completion percentage was so abysmal and his yards per pass attempt was respectable means that Manning was connecting on long throws, but not consistently enough to be of much help to the Giants offense.
Then he fell off in this past season when his yards per pass attempt was -.75 standard deviations below the 2006 league average of quarterbacks meeting my criterion.
As you can see, unlike completion percentage, the average yards per pass attempt for NFL quarterbacks has remained basically the same over the past thirty to forty years so it is more important for a quarterback to be at least league average in completion percentage than it is for him to be league average in yards per pass attempt.