The day us Giants fans have been anticipating basically since the Week 4 loss to the Bucs that dropped them to 0-4 is almost upon us. The NFL Draft’s first round is tomorrow night, and the G-Men hold the #2 overall pick. This is the first time since 1981 that the Giants have picked second, when they took legendary linebacker Lawrence Taylor. They haven’t even picked in the top five since 2004 when they took Philip Rivers, who they ultimately traded to the Chargers for a quarterback by the name of Eli Manning. Now, after a 3-13 season in which we saw the Giants fire their coach, bench Manning for a game, and lose star receiver Odell Beckham for the season to a fractured ankle, this draft pick determines the direction of their franchise. Do they take one of the draft’s top quarterbacks and begin to prepare for life after Eli? Or do they take an offensive weapon like Saquon Barkley and give it one last shot with Eli? Let’s weigh the options.
Draft a Quarterback
The four top QB names that are being thrown around in mock drafts are Wyoming’s Josh Allen, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, USC’s Sam Darnold, and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Three of these four will be on the board when the Giants pick, but it is unclear which three, as the Browns have been linked to all of them besides Rosen. Darnold is considered the most polished of the four, though he had an underwhelming final season at USC. Allen is more of a project, but his 6’5 frame and rocket arm are the physical skill set teams dream about. Rosen had an impressive college career, but is considered by many (including myself) to be a bit too outspoken to play in New York. Give me an Eli Manning type, a guy who will do his job in silence. A quiet competitor, a real warrior that will get up from the hardest hits. Rosen’s Cali kid vibe won’t fly in New York, especially if he struggles. Despite what I just said about wanting an Eli Manning type, I also love Mayfield. Sure, he’s quite outspoken too, but in a more fiery, “I’m going to do whatever it takes to bury my opponent” kind of way. If you didn’t enjoy watching Mayfield play, you don’t like fun. He gets a lot of Johnny Manziel comparisons, which can obviously be taken the wrong way. But I think his height and his past mistakes are played up too much, and he has real NFL potential. Realistically, I think the Giants take Rosen or Darnold, if he’s available. But man, I would love to see Baker in blue.
Draft Saquon Barkley
My brain tells me to take a quarterback, or trade down and get a huge package of picks. My heart tells me take Saquon Barkley. I’ve been posting #SuckForSaquon for months now. This guy is absolutely electric to watch play, and with the recent success of rookie running backs like Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette, it’s not inconceivable that he can be an instant boost for the entire offense. Yes, the Giants offensive line is still weak, but they’ve already started to make improvements with the signing of Nate Solder. The Barkley connection can’t be denied, with many mock drafts linking him to the G-Men. It would be a risky pick, but I would love to keep the Jersey kid at home.
Draft Bradley Chubb
Another option is to draft on the defensive side of the ball. After trading Jason Pierre-Paul this offseason, the G-Men could opt to take the draft’s best pass-rusher. Chubb broke Mario Williams’ sack record at NC State, and his draft stock has been rising steadily over the past few weeks. It wouldn’t be nearly as flashy of a move as taking Barkley or a quarterback, but an elite pass rusher is one of the NFL’s most coveted assets.
If the Giants decide to trade down, there will surely be a large number of suitors. This is a quarterback-heavy draft, and many teams such as the Bills or Cardinals could be looking to trade up and grab either Darnold, Rosen, Mayfield, or Allen. Preferably, the Giants trade to a spot they can take Notre Dame OL Quenton Nelson, but that may be a long shot. Although trading down is easily the least sexy option of the bunch, it needs to at least be considered given the package it would command.
Last season was not fun for Giants fans. This pick could very well determine the direction of the franchise for the next five years. In Gettleman we trust.
Well that couldn’t have gone any worse, could it? In the AFC championship game, the Jaguars almost did what America so desperately wanted and knocked off the Patriots. Unfortunately, almost is they key word in that sentence, and Tom Brady & company came back from a ten point fourth quarter deficit to secure their eighth AFC Championship in the Brady & Belichick era. I wanted more than anything for this guy to be in the Super Bowl,
Tom Brady: Wrote a book and developed an app about “achieving a lifestyle of sustained peak performance.”
I mean, that’s unreal. For a league that prides itself on parity and having everyone be relatively competitive, having only four quarterbacks represent an entire conference over a 15-year span is bananas. Regardless, if you had said at any point in the last year that Brady would be an AFC champ again, no one would blame you.
So as a Giants fan, or really any team, obviously the Patriots winning was not what you wanted. Rooting against the Patriots is like hitting on a girl that’s out of your league. You know how it’s gonna end the whole time, but then they give you a little glimmer of hope that maybe it’ll be different this time, only for it to end exactly how you originally thought. Moral of the story? The Patriots will always win and I will always get curved by girls but that is neither here nor there.
In the NFC game, you had the Vikings coming off one of the craziest finishes to a game probably ever, against the Eagles who have been thriving in the underdog role ever since MVP hopeful Carson Wentz tore his ACL. Although many people counted them out from that moment, “Big Dick” Nick Foles has more than risen to the challenge and has now put the Birds in the Super Bowl. I feel like I was pretty much in the same boat as most people thinking it would be a close game. The Vikings had momentum (and maybe a bit better of a team) on their side, the Eagles had home-field advantage. Well, that’s not what happened at all, and the Eagles handed the Vikings what my housemate and resident BTB hockey blogger Philly Phil would call a “Bully Beatdown.”
So us Giants fans are stuck in a pickle here. Super Bowl LII, Pats vs. Birds. Who do we root for? Let’s weigh our options.
The Case to Root For the Patriots
1. We’re Conditioned to Block Out Their Wins at This Point
Obviously no one likes it when the Patriots win. But you just know it’s coming at this point. If Brady wins another Super Bowl in two weeks, does it really matter anymore? The guy already has five. Not trying to take anything away from him because obviously every Super Bowl is an outstanding accomplishment, but you could tell me Brady’s gonna win twelve Super Bowls at this point and I’d believe you. Realizing the Patriots are probably gonna win the Super Bowl is the same as knowing the Knicks will be garbage every year. At a certain point it happens so often you just become numb to it.
2. Eli Would Still be the Only QB to Ever Beat Brady on the Big Stage
I’ve let it be known before that every sports highlight is better with Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On set to it, and this video is no exception. Brady scoffing at the notion that the Giants defense could hold the Pats’ offense in check at the beginning is also a great touch. But every Giants fan obviously knows how incredible it was to win those games (XLII especially, not to say XLVI wasn’t awesome but ruining their perfect season was the cherry on top of that game), and it’s something only Giants fans can say. Eli Manning is the only one to have beaten the Greatest QB of All-Time in the Super Bowl, and he did it twice. I’m no mathematician, but I know that if Brady is considered the GOAT, and Eli beat him in the championship game twice, then Eli must actually be the GOAT. No, I’m just kidding, but every Giants fan knows the pride that comes with saying your team is the only one to beat Brady on Super Bowl Sunday, and it’s the one thing that somewhat softens the blow whenever you see Brady get up on that podium and hoist the Lombardi.
3. The Eagles are Our Bigger Rivals
Sure, the G-Men have played the Pats twice in the Super Bowl. But we won both times. They’re in the AFC, we’re in the NFC, therefore we only play once every four years. It’s the same reason I don’t really consider the Jets our rivals. Well, that, and the fact that they are one of the saddest excuses for a franchise in North American sports (see also: Browns, Mets, Marlins.)
But we play the Eagles twice a year. They’re our division rivals. They’ve given us some heartbreaking defeats lately. Remember this one from when we actually still believed we could be a functioning football team in 2017?
Stayed with the Celine Dion there, don’t really know why. But that was a BRUTAL moment for us Giants fans. And who could forget this?
To this day, you can say “Fuck Matt Dodge” at any Giants tailgate/game and surely get a bunch of fans agreeing with you. So given everything I just said, how could you root for the Eagles?
1. It’s Still the Fucking Patriots
There’s still no shot anyone with a brain wants to see the Patriots win the Super Bowl. These are the same guys that got caught with Spygate and Deflategate. Their fans are insufferable. They win literally every year. The last thing anyone wants to see is them win another Super Bowl, regardless of who they’re playing.
2. I Hate Boston Sports Much More Than Philly Fans
I’m a baseball guy first. More specifically, a Yankees guy first. You know who our main rival is? The Boston Red Sox. In fact, that’s perhaps the best rivalry in professional sports. You know who else Red Sox fans root for? The Patriots. Any success for Boston sports makes me sick. Pictures like this showing how much recent success they have make me want to vomit.
The Patriots win every year. The Red Sox have won three since ending the Curse of the Bambino in 2004. The Celtics may be the best team in the East this year. And the Bruins sit near the top of the NHL standings. Seeing these fans get to enjoy yet another parade doesn’t get any easier, even if seeing Brady hold the Lombardi does.
3. What if it Never Ends?
I stand behind what I said that I’m pretty much immune to the Patriots themselves winning Super Bowls. I’ve seen them win five, what’s six or seven or even twelve gonna change? But what if it’s even more than that? What if Brady plays until he’s 80? Super Bowl 100 rolls around and they’re just still winning every single year? Call me crazy but that’s the way it’s looking at this point, and if an Eagles win could do one thing it would at least slow them down for now.
Conclusion: I came into this blog thinking I was gonna root for the Eagles. As started writing, however, the Patriots started to make more sense. However, I’ve come to a conclusion that I think every Giants fan can get on board with: drink a lot of beer on Super Bowl Sunday, hope your box pool numbers hit, and watch Saquon Barkley highlights on your phone in hopes that he’ll be a Giant in a few months. I can definitely get behind that plan.
When you look back on 2017, not just what happened in sports but as a whole, I think I speak for everyone when I say the only logical reaction is “what the actual fuck just happened?” Definitely a year to remember, but one you wish you could forget. In terms of sports it was certainly an eventful year for my teams. The Yankees were supposed to miss the playoffs and came up one win short of the World Series, the Giants were supposed to contend for a Super Bowl and ended up with the #2 pick in the draft, the Knicks almost let Phil Jackson trade Porzingis only to fire him a week later, and Rutgers tried. On a day when everyone is making “New Year’s Resolutions,” I made a New Year’s wish list for sports because it’s more fun to ask for things out of your control to happen (no one gives a shit that you swear you’re gonna start going to the gym again Brad, get off Twitter.) Obviously it would be easy/unrealistic to say I want all my teams to win championships, so I got a little more creative with it. Here’s what I hope 2018 has in store in the world of sports.
The Patriots Lose in the Super Bowl
No, I don’t just want the Patriots to not win the Super Bowl. I want them to make it there, and then lose. Why? Because love them or hate them, you can’t deny that the big game is always better when the Pats are in it. Was it horrible to see them win last year in the best comeback/worst collapse in Super Bowl history? Obviously, but you can’t deny that it was an amazing game. Every Super Bowl Tom Brady and company have been in has been extremely entertaining (especially 42 & 46 in my opinion.) Give me Brady throwing a game-ending pick six in overtime or something. Fun for the whole family!
Duke Loses in the Final Four
The same logic applies here as my Patriots argument. I would love to see nothing more than Grayson Allen’s Ted Cruz-looking ass get embarrassed by 40 by North Carolina on national TV. March Madness is the best sporting event there is (don’t @ me), and seeing Duke lose just makes it that much sweeter.
The Mets Pitching Staff Stays Healthy
Hear me out on this one. I’m a Yankee fan, but I would love to see this happen for two reasons. First of all, as a baseball fan, I would love to see what a healthy staff of Syndergaard, DeGrom, Matz, Harvey, Wheeler staff could do in a full season. And second, if they Yankees could still beat the crap out of those guys, it would shut up every annoying Mets fan I know.
The Giants Pick a Franchise-Altering Player
I’m torn on who I want them to take at number two. I love the idea of Saquon Barkley in the backfield, but if you legitimately think Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield could be your next franchise quarterback, how do you pass that up? Knowing the Giants, they could also trade back and take a lineman later on, but they would need to get a substantial return to do that. All I know is that this is hopefully the last time they get a draft pick this high for a long time, so they need to choose wisely.
Rutgers Upsets a Big Ten Team at Home
I’ve wanted to storm the field since I got to Rutgers. Unfortunately, the football team has not exactly done a great job at beating their Big Ten opponents recently, or even losing by a reasonable margin for that matter. But after storming the court after the basketball team beat Seton Hall a few weeks ago, all I know is I need to experience that at High Point Solutions Stadium before I graduate. (The fact that 2018 will be my last go-around of tailgates is like the Sunday Scaries times a million, by the way.)
The Yankees Win the World Series
All right sue me, we came within a game of getting there last year and we just traded for Giancarlo freaking Stanton. You’re damn right I want a World Series this year.
Let’s hope 2018 is a year to remember for the right reasons. All of us here at Below the Belt are ecstatic to bring you another year of average blogs.
When news broke on Tuesday, that Eli Manning would no longer be the Giants’ starting quarterback, I planned not to write a post about the matter. I figured that my lengthy Eli post from two weeks ago allowed me to say what I need to say (John Mayer). However, after the past four days, I need to make another post.
I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!!! Nearly every person I know or have heard is ready to tar and feather the Mara family, Jerry Reese, and Ben McAdoo for what has gone down this week with Eli. I, however, am fine with what the Giants have done. Hard-core football fans, casual football fans, Giants fans, Jets fans, Patriots fans, adults, children, Mike Francesa, Michael Kay, Don LaGreca, Bill Simmons, Bill Barnwell, friends of mine, family members of mine, current Giants, former Giants, and lastly Michael Rapaport are all mortified by the Giants’ handling this week of Eli Manning. Like when I told the world that I enjoyed Dumb and Dumber To, I am a man on an island, and that is ok with me.
That said, I am writing this post to express my shock at the level of outrage over the Giants’ decision. I had hoped for several weeks that the Giants would eventually move to see what they have in their other quarterbacks, but I did not think they would have the courage to do it. Eli Manning is likely the best human being in the NFL, and it takes a lot of courage to tell such a wonderful person that he has to ride the pine. I figured that, if McAdoo/Reese/Mara could find the courage to make the decision, most people would react similarly to my view of “I feel terrible for Eli. He has played his heart out as a Giant and has never missed a start. The team around him this year was bad. However, this is the right move for the future of the team.” Wow was I wrong!
Obviously, all Giants fans will forever look fondly upon Eli’s work in leading the Giants to two Super Bowl Championships. Much less obviously, apparently 99% of the world seems to look back fondly on his 32-43 regular-season record over the past five seasons and his 2-9 record this season.
Here are some common refrains I have heard this week and my rebuttals:
“How can you tarnish a man’s legacy like this?” I am sorry, but the 2-9 season and 4-of-5 seasons below .500 are tarnishing the legacy, not the benching. QBs who go 2-9 and 32-43 tend to get benched.
“Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, etc. (fill in the blank with any great QB here) never got treated like this.” Again, those quarterbacks never went had years this bad or five-year stretches this bad.
“But the team around Eli is terrible!!!” This is true, but Eli has made a bad situation worse, not better.
“But the Giants will be even worse without Eli at QB!” They are 2-9. Mathematically speaking, it is tough to get worse.
“How could they ask him to play just one half? That makes a mockery of the game.” Oh yeah, I am sure you would feel sooooooo much better if the Giants had just flat-out benched him without at least giving him this option.
“How could they go to Geno, not Webb?” True story, there were multiple games this season when I texted people that “Giants would be better using Geno right now”. I said this because a quarterback with at least some mobility would fare much better than Eli behind a porous offensive O-Line.
“But we saw Geno with the Jets, and he was terrible and a bad leader. He even got punched in the face, and nobody came to his defense.” First of all, he did have some great games as a Jet, including wins over the Patriots and Falcons. He was a second-round pick who has plenty of talent. Yes, he was immature…very immature. However, people can mature. Is it possible that getting clocked in the face and then spending three years backing up class acts like Eli and Ryan Fitzpatrick can make him a better person, leader, and player? I am not saying it is likely, but it could happen.
“If the Giants were gonna do this, how could they not have Webb ready?” This setup works just fine. If Geno does well, the Giants can roll with him. If he does badly, they can go to Webb. If either one of them ends up looking awesome, the Giants will feel less compelled to draft a quarterback in the first round. Drafting Saquon Barkley or an offensive lineman would not be a bad thing.
“If the Giants released him today, he would hardly last a second on the open market.” I disagree.
Anyway, among the many who have condemned the Giants this week, Bill Barnwell of ESPN is the only person who has an idea that would have made sense. He says the Giants should have announced that next week’s home game against Dallas would be Eli’s last start. That way, the Giants fans could have bid him farewell in a more respectable manner. I like the idea, but I would have done that in the Chiefs game, so that the Giants could have gotten 6 games to look at their young quarterbacks. However, I am not losing sleep that the Giants did not do this. The Giants will give Eli his due when they put him in the Ring of Honor as soon as his career ends.
Lastly, I have not generally been a big fan of Ben McAdoo. Some of that is because I did not love his play-calling as offensive coordinator. (Whereas I was one of the few who was fine with Kevin Gilbride) Some of that is because, when I look at his face, I cannot help but think of PC Principal. That said, McAdoo has shown me something positive this week. While everyone else is dumping on him, I praise him (and Reese and the Maras) for making a courageous decision.
I should add that I am not writing this post because I hate Eli. I simply have been down this block before. I have said goodbye to Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, and Mike Piazza. I am stuck in what seems to be a 4-year-long goodbye to David Wright. These things happen; it is inevitable. Eli, you have been a delight to watch on the field. Your humanitarian work is second to none. As Bill Simmons often discusses, I would love to have you marry my hypothetical daughter or hypothetical sister. In an era with many NFL scandals, you represent everything that is right with football. However, Giants fans, it is time to look to the future.
Obviously, the news that the Giants will be starting Geno Smith in place of long-time starter and 2-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning took the sports world by storm yesterday. I’m utterly stunned by this move. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been actively rooting against the Giants in every game for the last few weeks because there’s nothing worse in the NFL than being mediocre. What’s the point in going 6-10 when you can go 3-13 and potentially draft a franchise-changing player, aka Saquon Barkley? But while I’m all in on the tank, not at this cost. Not if it means disrespecting the best quarterback in franchise history, and a guy who gave us Giants fans the most unforgettable Super Bowl runs we could ask for. I mean, look at this guy.
Just sickening to not let him go out there and do his job. He’s currently working with one of the worst offensive lines in the league and a group of receivers where what was supposed to be his 4th/5th target in Roger Lewis is now his number one, and he’s still going out there week after week trying to win games. Don’t get me wrong, Eli is no Derek Jeter in terms of his consistency or his New York sports legacy. Yeah, the Giants haven’t exactly been a perennial playoff team and he’s more than capable of throwing an untimely interception. But you could always count on Eli to get up from every brutal hit he took, and give the G-Men a chance to win every damn week. And we bench him for this?
I mean I guess they wanna ensure the tank, but this is crazy. Also, props to Eli for not taking the pity “start” just to keep his streak alive. Shows you that the guy is way more concerned with the team’s performance than personal records. Just LOOK at this stat.
Every NFL team has utilized at least 3 different starting QB since Eli Manning's first NFL start in Week 11 of 2004.
Every team in the NFC East has used at least 10.
The Browns have utilized 24 starting QBs in that time.
When I decide on topics for “Below the Belt” posts, I try to stay away from stories that are already receiving a lot of coverage. I figure that people would rather read about something unique than read their 15th take of the day about why “Thursday Night Football causes injuries. Furthermore, I do not have much interesting analysis to add about any topic if a there is already a plethora of material on the subject.
Today, however, I am deviating from this tenet. Today, I want to discuss this quote that many of you have heard, and many of you have probably also said…
“…but if you take away those eight games…”
Yes, I am talking about Eli Manning and the eight playoff games he won en route to two Super Bowl Championships (2007 and 2011 seasons). In this conflagration of a Giants season, much has already been said and written about everyone involved with the team, and many pieces have been written about Eli. However, in this rare case, I am going to provide you with your “15th take of the day” on something. Simply put, I feel in this case that I can add my own spin on Eli’s career, and I will use the quote above to guide my analysis.
For those who have never heard the afore-mentioned quote, it usually finishes with something akin to “…he has been an average to below-average quarterback”, “he has won no playoff games”, or “his last several seasons seem pretty unimpressive”.
Obviously, Eli’s detractors – often Jets, Cowboys, Eagles, or Patriots fans – are the ones typically making these claims, but are the claims just? Yes, I am a Giants fan, but I consider myself objective enough when it comes to analyzing the quality of players and teams, even those I passionately like or dislike. I feel I have been completely objective about Eli during his whole career. Given this, I feel there is one context in which the quote shown above is completely unjust and one in which it is totally just.
If one is discussing the overall level of greatness of Manning’s career, then it is completely unjust to make the comment. However, if one is judging Manning’s current value as an NFL quarterback, then it is completely unfair.
Let us start with the unjust – using the afore-mentioned quote when analyzing Eli’s place in NFL history. When judging anyone’s level of greatness over a career, we must take into account the good, the average, and the bad. To decide arbitrarily to ignore the top moments of Eli’s career is patently ridiculous. Manning is tied for 16th all-time in playoff wins with those 8 wins. (He is tied with Jim Plunkett, Dan Marino, Steve Young, and Russell Wilson.) Right off the bat, that is impressive company. I realize that 16th place is not worthy of a trophy, but it is not a bad place when one considers how many quarterbacks have played in the NFL over the years. Furthermore, it is ironic how Dan Marino and Peyton Manning (tied for third with 14 playoff wins) are maligned for underperforming in the postseason because they could rarely string together several wins in one playoff year. Meanwhile, Eli managed to string together four playoff wins apiece in two different seasons, but some people instead focus on the fact that he has won zero playoff games in his other seasons. Yes, it is fair to consider his 12 seasons with no playoff wins to be a negative on his resume, but one must then also consider his two amazing playoff runs an overwhelming positive.
People often overlook the fact that it is not easy to win in the playoffs. I don’t know if you have noticed this, but teams in playoff games are usually pretty good. There is no such thing as an easy playoff game, but Eli is one of the few people to make tough playoff games look easy. Only one of his eight playoff wins came at home; that win was an easy 24-2 win over Atlanta in the 2011 Wild-Card Round. His 2007 Wild-Card-Round win in Tampa Bay was the only other win that is not particularly momentous. His other six wins – all legendary – include: two wins in Lambeau (one a rout of a 15-1 Aaron Rodgers-led team and one a thrilling NFC-title-clinching OT win against Brett Favre), one win at 13-3 post-bye (and post-Tony Romo and Jason Witten going to Cabo) Dallas, one NFC-title-clinching win in San Francisco in which the Niners’ defense knocked him around like Ivan Drago did Rocky, and (of course) the two Super Bowl wins over the Patriots (the 2007 edition being 18-0 turned 18-1). Additionally, while it is fair to say that Eli was somewhat lucky to have David Tyree make the “Helmet Catch”, Eli’s famous pass to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI is the best Super Bowl pass of all time (in my mind).
Anyway, read that last paragraph again. OK, this is a long post, so you do not need to read it again. However, if you did, you would realize that Eli belongs in Canton. To those who say we should ignore those eight games, should we also ignore Cal Ripken’s consecutive-games-played streak or A-Rod’s dominant 2009 postseason? Of course not. Some Hall-of-Famers have steady greatness over long periods of time; others have amazing greatness over long periods of time; and yet others – such as Eli – have brief moments of greatness. It is more than fair to say that Eli’s eight playoff wins were the greatest moments of his football career, but those wins happened. Not only did they happen, but they happened on the biggest stage. You cannot take those legendary performances off his resume.
However, if you do remove them from his resume, you are left with something that is not so pretty.
This leads me to my other main thesis, that it is fair to use the “…but if you take away those eight games…” line for evaluating Eli Manning’s current value for the Giants or for other NFL teams (via prospective trades). When deciding Eli’s current worth, it is reasonable to analyze his full body of work and to give added weight to his more recent performances. Furthermore, since playoff games are single games, it is fair in this context to say that success in four games does not compensate for underperformance in full 16-game seasons.
As I mentioned earlier, I do not want to give you stuff you can find elsewhere. FiveThirtyEight has written a great piece on Eli being a mediocre quarterback. (Try to say “mediocre” and not think of Richard Sherman. You can’t do it.) The article uses modern individual quarterback stats to compare Eli to other quarterbacks of his time. These stats do not make Eli look very good. However, anyone who plays fantasy has seen plenty of quarterbacks have terrible games and end up 370 yards from garbage time while also seeing quarterbacks dominate and throw for 170 yards. It is like comparing Drew Brees of the past few years to Drew Brees of this year.
In an era in which quarterbacks have a huge hand in teams’ success, I judge modern quarterbacks much more strongly on team performance than on individual performance. Unfortunately for Eli, focusing on team performance continues to support FiveThirtyEight’s “Eli is mediocre” claim. Many people refer to Eli’s first season with Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator (2014) as one of Eli’s better seasons. This is utterly untrue. I watched every Giants game that season. 2014 Eli was every bit as underwhelming as 2013 Eli. Most people acknowledge that Manning had a rough 2013. That said, the only differences between Manning’s 2013 and 2014 performances were that McAdoo had Eli throwing shorter passes in 2014 and that he Eli dominated in garbage time in 2014 – both within games (like when the Giants fell behind 40-10 against the Colts but ended up losing 40-24 with Eli throwing for 357 yards) and within the season (three of his best games came against weak opponents in Weeks 14-16 after the Giants had started the season 3-9). His piece de mediocre resistance that year came in a 16-10 November loss to the 49ers. The name of the Niners’ quarterback that day escapes me at the moment, but he had an underwhelming game in the midst of his first of two consecutive bad seasons as the Niners’ starter. However, Manning was worse than that quarterback in this game. Manning threw for 280 yards and 5 interceptions. Five! Anyway, Manning managed to throw for his third-highest season yardage total (4410) that season, but he did not have a good season.
As I mentioned earlier; in the modern NFL, there is one reasonable way to judge a quarterback, and that is through wins and losses. Sure, in the 1970s and 1980s, quarterbacks threw sparingly, so it was less fair to judge a quarterback this way. However, nowadays, quarterbacks throw often enough that this is the fairest way to judge quarterbacks. People do not care about individual stats like they do in baseball. Great quarterbacks win. Plain and simple.
However, let us look at Manning’s records over the years:
2005: 11-5 (WC playoff loss to Carolina)
2006: 8-8 (WC playoff loss to Philly)
2007: 10-6 (Won Super Bowl)
2008: 12-4 (Post-bye Div. playoff loss to Philly)
2011: 9-7 (Won Super Bowl)
2016: 11-5 (WC playoff loss to Green Bay)
Total: 110-99 (.526 winning percentage)
Look at that again, 110-99…and let’s be frank, with six games left this season, he could easily be 110-105, precipitously close to .500, by January. Additionally, since the beginning of 2013, Manning is 31-42 in the regular season. There are many Giants fans who refuse to speak ill of Eli and want him to remain the quarterback for years to come, a la Tom Brady with the Patriots. However, there is one major difference between the two. Tom Brady wins 11 games in a bad season; on the other hand, Eli is 31-42 over the past five seasons. Meanwhile, Eli’s advocates cling to the fact that he won two championships before Russell Wilson entered the NFL. Again, those championships are fair exhibits in discussing Eli’s status as a potential Hall-of-Famer, but they ring hollow in discussing what the Giants should do with Eli now.
Look at this list of regular-season winning percentages for prominent quarterbacks who have played within the past 10 seasons and started at least 50 career games:
Tom Brady .779
Russell Wilson .702
Peyton Manning .685
Ben Roethlisberger .677
Aaron Rodgers .667
Andrew Luck .614
Tony Romo .614
Matt Ryan .596
Joe Flacco .592
Alex Smith .590
Kurt Warner .589
Andy Dalton .584
Cam Newton .574
Drew Brees .573
Philip Rivers .541
Eli Manning .526
That .526 tells the story, and that figure includes his seasons from 2009 through 2012, when I feel he played his best regular seasons. Those were the four seasons when the Giants were good but were not a “ground and pound team” as they were for Eli’s first 5 seasons. Furthermore, while Eli won two Super Bowl MVPs – again, honors that help his Hall-of-Fame case – he was never in the conversation for NFL MVP. Also, there was never a time when he was a Top-5 quarterback in the NFL (in my opinion).
All of this stuff matters for what the Giants should do now. Manning was never a dominant quarterback in his prime, and he is several years past his prime. He has underwhelmed over the past five seasons, and, with his advanced age, he is sure to continue his performance decline. It is time to see what Davis Webb can do. The Giants have nothing left for which to play (other than a high draft pick), so they might as well see what they have in Webb. If he goes out and dominates over the next seven weeks (not likely, but you never know), then the Giants can focus on other needs during the draft. If Webb looks bad, the Giants know that they need to draft a quarterback this April. The one thing that cannot happen is that the Giants cannot plan to have Eli Manning as their starter next September. Sure, the Giants’ offensive line is terrible. Sure they have a weak running game. Sure, Beckham is out. However, look again at that long list above of quarterbacks’ winning percentages. Many of those quarterbacks were able to win with weak lines, weak running games, and/or no top receiver. It is time for the Giants to find Eli’s replacement, and they might as well start the process over the last seven weeks of 2017.
I will add another point. For a moment, forget about players’ current salaries. If the Giants were to offer Eli Manning up for a trade in the offseason, how many teams would certainly trade for him to be their starter? In my mind, there are two: Denver and Cleveland….and that is only if they do not grab two of the major college quarterbacks prospects themselves. Giants fans can sing Eli’s praises as much as they want, but the truth is that he does not represent an upgrade over Tom Brady, Jay Cutler/Matt Moore, Tyrod Taylor (although he is no longer Buffalo’s starter), Josh McCown, Big Ben, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Marcus Mariota, Andrew Luck/Jacoby Brissett, Blake Bortles (OK, he is probably tied with Eli, but the Jags like Bortles), Deshaun Watson, Derek Carr, Alex Smith (or likely Patrick Mahomes), Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Mitchell Trubisky, Case Keenum/Teddy Bridgewater, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppalo, or Jared Goff. That is a pretty telling sign.
Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP who belongs in Canton. Eli Manning led the Giants to eight legendary wins that represent some of the greatest moments of my life. Eli Manning is as good, kind, humble, and charitable a human being as one can find in the NFL or anywhere, for that matter. However, he has been an average regular-season quarterback who has dominated when the games matter the most…..and it is time for the Giants to move on to a new signal caller.
Russell Wilson and Co. are quite familiar with the confines of MetLife Stadium. Why? Let me humbly remind you:
The greatest day of my life. Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII (48 for my non-bilingual readers) at MetLife in 2014. On Sunday, they returned to the Meadowlands for the first time since their pouncing of the Broncos and made the NY Football Giants look just as bad as the San Francisco Giants in 2017, winning 24-7.
The first half went as many Seattle Seahawks football games go…poor offense, great defense, dumb penalties, and losing going into the second half. The receivers were at fault multiple times with big drops by Jimmy Graham and a bad one by Rawls on a screen pass. Play-calling around the endzone was pretty horrid too, as we had about 1200 attempts in the redzone and came away with zero points.
The Giants only score came off a Thomas Rawls fumble and a quick score on a play-action pass from Eli Manning to Evan Engram.
Engram actually looked like the best player on the field for the Giants offensively, and showed flashes of why he was picked in the first round in this years draft. Other than that, there were no positives for this Giants offense. Eli had to check down multiple times in the fourth quarter, and it seemed like the only big play they really had a chance on was a deep ball in the first quarter that Richard Sherman made a great play on to bat away.
On the winning side, the Seahawks offense looked methodical in the first half, but broke out in the second half (as per usual) with great passing and a few mixed in running plays. Watching these games, I always hear the announcers compare this Seahawks team to the teams of the past, where the running game behind Marshawn Lynch was everything. This has to stop because clearly running the ball is no longer our strong suit, but keeping it as a change of pace with multiple different backs has really worked to our advantage. We know what each running back is going to give us, but the Seahawks like to keep opposing defenses on their toes as to who will be in on the next snap. Their running game has gone from chaos to organized chaos, and it seems like Pete Carroll finally has a handle on what he wants to do with Lacy, Rawls, McKissic, and Prosise (when healthy). This is a great sign moving forward, maybe not for the individual success of each back, but for the team as a whole.
Russell Wilson was good, not great. His stats were stellar, but I expect better. He missed Baldwin on a bomb down the field that would have been an easy touchdown, and he didn’t make enough good throws in the endzone with a poorly thrown ball to Graham and a rocket to Lockett (lol) that did not have to be as hard as it was. He, like the Seahawks, figured things out in the second half.
We had a small blast from the past when Paul Richarson came down with a “Fail Mary” looking catch on Giants safety Landon Collins.
The rule is that when an offensive and defensive player have joint possession of the ball on the ground, the catch is rewarded to the offensive player. I saw some people argue that it should have been an incomplete pass, but that is just stupid. The ball was in somebody’s hands on the ground, so one of them had to have caught it. Crazy rule, but these are once every few years type plays…both just happened to happen to the Seahawks.
He also floated a touch pass to Baldwin for the lead midway through the third quarter.
I was really excited that the Wilson-Baldwin connection was back in dominant form. In order for the passing game to be effective, Baldwin needs to be incorporated. Even when he doesn’t have big statistical games, he is a game-changer. He moves the chains so often that when Wilson can’t find him, the offense stalls. To be the elite team Seattle can be, their bromance on the field needs to continue.
The defense looked great, even though that isn’t saying much with the battered down Giants team. They will be tested next week at home against the red-hot Texans and Deshaun Watson. We will get our starting cornerback back Jeremy Lane and allow Shaquill Griffin, who has played above expectations in his absence, to slide back into nickel coverage. Healthy and looking like an elite team once again, the Seahawks are back at Century Link Field in Week 8, let’s get a dub.