Hall of Krame: Eli Manning’s “Guy from Dartmouth” Deserves More Praise

Manning made a lighthearted joke about Dartmouth football, but a deeper look at Big Green quarterback Derek Kyler ’21’s numbers over the past few seasons suggests that Manning should not be so quick to write him off.

by Justin Kramer | 10/1/21 2:00am

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Derek Kyler ’21 clapped back at Eli Manning in a tweet after the two-time Super Bowl MVP said he’d like to "throw after the guy from Dartmouth."

by Gracie Goodwin / The Dartmouth

Dartmouth football received a rare mention on ESPN this Monday — but it wasn’t for a SportsCenter Top 10 play like Derek Kyler ’21’s game-winning Harvard Heave in November 2019. Rather, Dartmouth was the butt of a lighthearted jab from former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning during NFL Week 3’s Monday Night Football ManningCast.

During ESPN’s new alternative MNF broadcast — which features a rotating selection of guests alongside Peyton and Eli Manning — the Manning brothers brought in Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and discussed his impressive 2008 showing at the Manning Passing Academy — back when he was still an NFL prospect. Neither Peyton nor Eli had wanted to throw next after watching Stafford show off his cannon and spiral.

“I’m gonna throw after the guy from Dartmouth,” Eli said he joked at the time. 

Throwing after the current Dartmouth quarterback, though, might not do the Mannings any favors. Kyler — who trained at the Manning Passing Academy this summer — poked back at the Mannings, tweeting a screenshot of the FCS completion percentage leaderboard, showcasing his FCS-leading 78.1% completion percentage through two games.

Hold on, 78.1%? That rate is absurdly high, buoyed by Kyler’s perfect 10 for 10 passing day for 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a win against Sacred Heart University last Saturday. For context, the current FBS record is 77.4%, set last year by third-place Heisman Award finisher and New England Patriots first-round pick Mac Jones out of the University of Alabama — which, last I checked, has a bit more of an established football reputation than the Big Green. Kyler also leads the FCS in passing efficiency rating, posting an otherworldly 203.98, which would top Jones’ 203.1 FBS mark from last year and nearly match College of William and Mary quarterback Shawn Knight’s 1993 204.6 FCS-record mark if sustained.

Neither figure is going to hold, especially considering that Dartmouth is only two games into its season and begins Ivy League competition tonight. But what Kyler has done in the early going — even against non-conference teams and with only 32 passes thrown — has been impressive. And given his accomplished resume, maintaining his spot atop the FCS leaderboard in completion percentage and passing efficiency rating certainly seems possible. 

Kyler’s track record suggests that his hot start is no fluke. In his first season sharing quarterback duties with Jared Gerbino ’20 in 2018, Kyler nearly paced the FCS in completion percentage, connecting with his receiver on 68.9% of his attempts, good for second in the FCS and earning him an All-Ivy Second Team nomination as a sophomore. The next year, he led the Ivy League and broke the Dartmouth record in passing efficiency (183.87). For the second-consecutive season, he completed over two-thirds of his passes and would have secured the fourth-best completion percentage in the FCS had he met the 15-pass per game threshold.

Granted, Kyler’s high passing efficiency rating and completion percentage are partially inflated by his reliance on shorter, higher percentage looks. His average yards per completion this year and in 2018 hover just above a more pedestrian 11 yards, placing him in the bottom half of the FCS, though his 2019 mark of 15.14 would have put him in the top five if he qualified.

Nonetheless, for his career, Kyler holds a stellar 169.99 passing efficiency rating and a 69.2% completion percentage — Dartmouth records by a large margin. The Manning brothers might have a tough time throwing after Kyler, considering Eli posted a 137.7 passing efficiency rating and 60.8% completion percentage at the University of Mississippi and Peyton posted a career 147.1 rating and 62.5% completion percentage in four years at the University of Tennessee. Of course, the Mannings faced much stiffer FBS competition, and Kyler won’t be hearing his name called No. 1 overall on draft day like the Mannings each did.

Regardless, Kyler has a chance this season to solidify his standing as one of the premier quarterbacks in the FCS and lock down multiple Dartmouth passing records. With Gerbino now graduated, Kyler should have no issue qualifying for the completion percentage and passing efficiency rating leaderboards as the primary option at quarterback for the Big Green. Given his hot start this year and success in those categories his last two seasons, Kyler is one of the best bets to sit atop the FCS leaderboards by the end of the season.

Fittingly, ESPNU will broadcast tonight’s conference opener against the University of Pennsylvania as “the Dartmouth guy” and his teammates look to defend their share of the 2019 Ivy League Championship.

Correction appended (4:10 p.m., Oct. 1, 2021): A previous version of the subtitle and body of this article suggested that Eli Manning’s joke referenced present-day Dartmouth football. Upon review, it appears that Manning was, in 2021, relating a joke told in 2008 about Dartmouth football. The article has been updated to reflect the correct meaning. 

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