ROUGHING THE PASSER: The End of an Era

The New York Giants have decided that, at 2-9, their season is over and they need to look at other options behind center. Richard O’Hagan doesn’t necessarily agree with them.

It had to happen one day. Sometime, Eli Manning‘s remarkable streak of games started was going to come to an end. At 210 matches it is both a remarkable feat and yet nowhere near to catching the record of the only quarterback ahead of him in the list, Brett Favre. Either injury or age was going to get to him long before he overtook the Packers great, so there was no point in keeping that streak alive for reasons other than sentiment – a situation that Manning himself has acknowledged.

That doesn’t mean that the decision to bench him is the right one, though. Indeed, all it seems to do is to reinforce the idea that coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese have no real idea what the problems are in the blue half of New York.

Manning hasn’t played badly this season. For all that he will forever be in the shadow of his older brother, you have to remember that only one active quarterback – Tom Brady – has won more Superbowls than he has. He also has as many Superbowl rings as Peyton, and a better injury record, too. He has always been maddeningly inconsistent, but the boneheaded throws have always been outweighed by the brilliant ones, and 2017 has been no exception in this respect.

The problems for the Giants aren’t with the man behind center, they are with every other facet of the offense. Some of these have been due to cruel fate. They have lost all four of their first-choice wide receivers at times this season, including Odell Beckham Jr and Brandon Marshall ending up on injured reserve in the same week. As the Bears have been demonstrating week in, week out, this season, it is hard to run an offense when you’ve no-one to throw the ball too.

Some of the Giants’ problems are very much self-inflicted, though. What was once the best offensive line in the NFL has, over the past few seasons, become a basket case. Whilst there has been a marked improvement in the play of oft-derided tackle Ereck Flowers over the season, and whilst losing center Weston Richburg to long-term concussion problems cannot be pinned at the door of the Giants’ coaches, the fact remains that if your line is as porous as sandstone, your quarterback play is going to suffer.

Similarly, if you have no passing game, you at least need a running game. The Giants haven’t had one of those for at least three seasons. When they last won a Superbowl, they did so with three high calibre backs running the ball. Now (and although Orleans Darkwa seems adept at making the most of a bad job) they have nobody playing at that level. The O-line might not be able to open many gaps, but there’s no-one who can reliably get through the ones they do make.

Neither of those problems is new, and yet McAdoo, Reese and Co have failed to address them fully, either in the Draft or in free agency. It is a problem that was always going to catch up with them and, thanks to the loss of that passing game, it has done so now.

All of which begs the question, exactly what do they hope to achieve by benching the only quality player left on the offensive side of the ball? Whilst you can understand that they want to get a look at Geno Smith (who we know a lot about already) and Davis Webb (who might be another David Carr behind this line), how can they expect them to play any better than a guy who has won two championships, given the same abject collection of weaponry?

Manning turns 37 soon. This is almost certainly the end of his time in NYC. The hot money is on a move to Denver, but would he really want to follow his brother so closely when there are plenty of other teams out there who need a quarterback? It is a pretty sad and pointless ending to a fine career in New York.

Richard O’Hagan

 

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Richard O'Hagan
Writer on such diverse topics as sport, music, theatre, law and politics. Author of 'Eddie the Sheep'. Supporter of underachieving teams, including the Chicago Bears from before that brief, heady, period in the mid-1980s when they were actually any good. All I want for Christmas is a Jim McMahon away shirt.
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    The New York Giants have decided that, at 2-9, their season is over and they need to look at other options behind center. Richard O’Hagan doesn’t nece
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