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.
Lot to talk about this week in the NFL. Giants dominate defense. Brock Osweiler losing his job to a rookie. Blake Bortles getting benched for a QB that’s worse than him. Vontaze Burfict continuing his great relationship with the NFL owners. Listen in!
What more is there to say? The Giants went into Cleveland and somehow played worse than a team who’s logo is a fucking football helmet. Then again, it’s preseason, but still there’s a lot to bitc…I mean breakdown. Have a listen, why not.