The Giant Insider Online

Former Giants: Team Has Wasted Eli Manning’s Prime

Eli Manning enters the 2018 season a 37 year-old quarterback who is perceived to be in decline. If you look at his numbers, there’s not much to argue about.

After going 1-6 in his rookie season in 2004, Manning guided the Giants to eight consecutive non-losing seasons, including five trips to the postseason and two Super Bowl victories.

But since then, Manning has only been able to muster one winning season (2016) and one playoff appearance. His numbers really haven’t changed much but the team has fallen on hard times. Outside of the 2016 season in which their defense basically carried them, the Giants have been losers.

Since beginning his career with a record of 78-57, Eli  has gone 33-46 as the team’s starter. Some of that is his fault. He did throw a league-high 27 INTs in 2013 and his QBR was a career-low 39.3. But he bounced back the next two seasons, tossing for 4,410 and 4,432 with TD-to-INT ratios of 30-14 and 35-14 and QBRs of 62.5 and 60.5. The team finished 6-10 both seasons. costing head coach Tom Coughlin his job.

Then the last two seasons, 2016 and 2017, Eli had little help on offense. With a running game that averaged less than 100 yards per game and an offensive line that forced him to release the ball sooner than he wanted, the offense went nowhere. They averaged 19.4 PPG in 2016 and sunk to an embarrassing 15.4 last year. Eli’s QBRs the past two seasons have been 49.3 and 41.7.

That’s why he appears to be in decline. Ben McAdoo’s horizontal offense, no running game and a spotty offensive line – not to mention the injury to Odell Beckham, Jr. last year that cost him 12 games – are all contributing factors behind Manning’s fall from grace.

Two former Giants from their Super Bowl teams of the last decade, center Shaun O’Hara and DE Justin Tuck, believe Eli was done a disservice by the team. He was supplied with weapons in the passing game, but was left to his own devices when it came to his protection and balance from the running game.

They’ve wasted the last few years of Eli’s career, they’ve wasted his prime,” O’Hara told NJ.com. “It’s been hard to sit and watch that happen. I’m glad to see that they found a way to correct it, but Eli can still play the game.”

“I agree with him (O’Hara),” Tuck said. “We all know what Eli can do when he is healthy and when he has comparable athletes around him. I don’t think he had those. Anything other than that, you are just lying to yourself.”

This year, the Giants have fortified the offensive line and drafted Saquon Barkley and signed Jonathan Stewart to bolster the running game.

“I laugh when at people that say Eli can’t play,” said O’Hara, who is an analyst for NFL Network. “I know he can play. I know he can throw the rock, and I know that he’s still got that fire. He just wants to get better. That’s what you love about him.”

When the Giants hired Dave Gettleman as their new GM back in December, he answered the question about whether he thought Eli could still win in this league with a high level of certainty.

“In regards to Eli, the bottom line is I’m an inveterate film watcher,” he said. “That’s what I do, OK? I haven’t had access to tape and I’m not avoiding the question, but obviously you got to look at the film. You got to see what’s cooking, and listen, Eli has won a lot of games. He’s a great competitor. He’s very intelligent and he and I are going to talk and if what I saw (against) Philadelphia was not a mirage, and I don’t believe it was, then we’ll just keep moving.”

New head coach Pat Shurmur also believes that Manning can still be a top player. When he walked through the door in January, he was also all-in on Eli.

“I’ve watched him, competed against him, admired how he’s played over the years,” said Shurmur. “Got to spend some time with him this summer in the Manning Academy setting.  I’ve already spoken to him on the phone and he’s an outstanding football player, and I can’t wait to get to work with him.  I’ve admired the way he’s handled things.  I sort of like a calm approach to the position.  Looking forward to getting to work with him.”

So there you have it. Two former Super Bowl champions and the Giants’ brass are putting their faith back in Eli after last year’s debacle where McAdoo benched him for Geno Smith, of all players.
 

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