Hello, all. It has been nearly two full months since I last wrote a post, and I know there has been a huge void in your lives. TMZ has been all over me, trying to find scandalous reasons why I have not been posting. No, nobody punted my dog Rex off a bridge. The truth is much less exciting than that. My wife and I moved into a house at the end of August, and it turns out that moving into a house while starting the school year (as a teacher) means that I have not had too much spare time.
Now that we have put that item to bed, I figured what better way to return to this blog than with my favorite topic: “Eli Manning”? If you recall, I wrote two Eli posts last year – one in which I suggested that his time was running out and one in which I discussed what I considered to be the negative overreaction to his benching. Of course, I was tempted to write a third about how I thought it was unfair that the Giants ultimately threw Ben McAdoo under the bus for the matter (although I generally did not like McAdoo’s coaching for other reasons). I ultimately decided not to write the third post, as I would have come across as crazy writing three “Eli” posts during one season. However, if I write a post this season, I would be sitting at 1.5 “Eli” posts per season over last year and this year. That does not make me crazy, right?
Allow me to proceed…As we sit here today, the Giants sport a 1-7 record. Given that I strongly wanted the Giants to draft a quarterback this past April; if you had told April-me that the Giants would pass on drafting a QB and would be 1-7 halfway through the 2018 NFL season, April-me would have assumed that November-me would be livid. Fortunately, that is not the case. Granted, it stinks being 1-7, but at least I was able to practice this situation last year. (Not to mention, the 2012-2014 seasons gave me pretty good practice as well, even if those seasons were not quite “1-7 start”-level bad”)
No, the surprise to April-me would be that I am not mad that the Giants did not draft a quarterback. Saquon Barkley is clearly one of the best running backs in the game, and none of the quarterbacks drafted are setting the world on fire. Do not get me wrong – It is likely that at least one of the quarterbacks will develop into a great quarterback, but that has not happened yet. If Sam Darnold were playing like rookie-year Andrew Luck, I would be beside myself on a daily basis….but he is not doing that.
Therefore, the Giants now have the chance to set things right. They can either draft a quarterback with their high 2019 draft pick, or they can use the pick to build their core (hopefully using the pick on an offensive lineman) while picking up a veteran quarterback for next season. I thought that the Giants should have signed Teddy Bridgewater last offseason. He would have been a low-risk, high-reward player who would have pushed Eli. However, the Giants astoundingly decided that, because they had benched Eli in December, it made sense to provide him with the least competition of any of the 32 starting NFL quarterbacks. (Alex Tanney, Kyle Lauletta, and the since-released Davis Webb comprised Eli’s “competition”.) Well, the Giants can right that wrong this coming offseason, whether with Bridgewater or someone else of that level.
The nice thing for me to see is that, after a second-straight deplorable season (OK, half-season in this case), many more fans are coming around on the idea that it is time from Eli. That is comforting. At the same time though, there are still fans out there who think Eli is not a problem. The majority of these fans blame everything on the Giants’ offensive line, and that leads me to the main idea of this post. To these fans, I ask, “What would it take for you to think that Eli is done?”
Honestly, what would it take? Sure, the Giants’ offensive line is bad, but Eli supporters make it seem like Eli’s offensive line is a million times worse than any other offensive line in the league. Eli’s supporters say that, because Eli is an immobile quarterback, it is imperative that the Giants drastically improve their line. Well, the line this year is slightly better than it was last year. Nate Solder has disappointed, and Will Hernandez is a work in progress, but the line is a little better than last year than when Ereck Flowers was prominently involved. How much improvement does the offensive line need, in order for Eli to become even a mediocre quarterback, at this point?
When Eli’s supporters argue about him being an immobile quarterback, they have the argument backwards. Every quarterback in the league other than Tom Brady is more mobile than Eli. Therefore, it is Eli’s lack of mobility that is the big problem to address. While the venerable Rob Sartori would know more about the Seahawks’ O-Line than I do, I am pretty sure that the group is nothing amazing. At the same time, Russell Wilson’s mobility makes it such that the line is less of a detriment than it would be with Eli behind it. Russell Wilson is generally considered a mobile quarterback. However, even quarterbacks who we do not think of as mobile – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Philip Rivers, Big Ben (in his advanced age), to name a few – still show a bit more mobility than Eli does. At a minimum, those QBs can take the necessary step or two after the snap to dance out of pressure. That is all a quarterback needs to be able to do to keep the offensive line from being a complete liability.
Unfortunately, Eli cannot do that. For every legitimate case of Eli being sacked immediately after the snap (thus of no fault of his own), there is also a case of Eli either stepping into a circle of defenders (and being sacked) or holding the ball for too long while he gets sacked deep behind the line of scrimmage. Eli’s defenders say that these last two scenarios are not his fault because Eli is so shell-shocked at this point. Well, whether it is his fault or not, the fact that remains that Eli is one of the two least-mobile quarterbacks (with Tom Brady) in the league, and he is the most shell-shocked. Therefore, if you were to take the backup quarterback on any non-Giants team in the league and have him start on the Giants, one would likely see a more mobile and less shell-shocked QB. Thus, one would likely see a more productive Giants QB.
It seems a heck of a lot easier to replace the Giants’ quarterback than it is to replace the entire infrastructure around Eli. Saying that the line is the problem and that Eli is not is akin to saying that the problem with having a flip phone is that there are not computers with Internet capability 10 feet apart across the whole planet. “If only there were computers everywhere, my lack of a smart phone would not be a problem anymore!” That is the logic I hear from Eli’s supporters. In a league in which every quarterback drafted nowadays has at least a modicum of mobility, maybe it is a bad idea that the Giants hold on to such an immobile quarterback.
Additionally, I hear people say that, when Eli has time to throw a good ball, he can still throw as well as anyone. Stop it. Even in Eli’s prime, he was never the most accurate passer. Yes, he threw the most clutch/accurate pass in NFL history when he threw the bomb to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI, but most of his career has seen plenty of wounded ducks and plenty of passes behind big receivers like Plaxico Burress and Hakeem Nicks that the receivers were able to reel in.
I also hear people talk about Eli’s great game against Philly last December, his strong game in Houston in September, and his great finish in Carolina this October. Some use these games as proof that he can still be great, but I see this as the ultimate case of confirmation bias. Any quarterback this side of Nathan Peterman can have a few great games in the modern NFL; the league is set up for QBs to dominate. Therefore, a quarterback is judged on how few bad games he has, more so than on how many good games he has. Josh McCown had probably 5 or 6 very good games last year, and he has been on the bench this whole season. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a few very good games seemingly every year but can never hold a starting job. Those two career backups are held down because we have seen too many bad games out of them, yet Eli’s supporters refuse to hold the same standard to Eli.
Thus I ask again to our Eli supporters, “What would it take for you to say it’s over?” Do you need to see three-consecutive seasons of three or fewer wins? Do you need to see Eli be sacked 100 times in a season? Do the Giants need to trade for Andrew Luck? Do you need to see the Giants put nine players on the offensive line to block, so that Eli finally has enough time? What would it take?
Lastly, for copyright purposes, I should come clean that I first heard this “What would it take?” premise when used by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. He is a Republican who was using this question to criticize Republicans who refused to condemn then-presidential-candidate Donald Trump for anything. Thus, since I am citing a Republican who is criticizing other Republicans, hopefully those two components cancel each other out…and you – Republican or Democrat – are ok with me using the line.