Giants Need To Unleash the Fearless Eli Manning of Old

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

What in the world happened to Manning's gunslinging mentality of the Tom Coughlin era?

The Giants havent scored thirty points in a game since week 17 of 2015 Tom Coughlins last game as head coach.

Whats happened to the Giants offense throughout the last three seasons since then is truly hard to figure out.

Who or what is to blame for such a stagnant offense? Bad offensive line? Bad play-calling? Poor execution? Its hard to ignore the fact that only one thing has remained constant in the years since Coughlins departure: quarterback Eli Manning.

Manning has a Hall-of-Fame resume, there is absolutely no doubt about that. He is going to finish his career in the top 10 in NFL history in touchdown passes and yards to go along with two Super Bowl MVPs for a blue-blood franchise.

But when Coughlin walked out the door, something changed in the way Manning played quarterback.

Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur were tasked with revitalizing Manning. They both asked him to be more efficient, and set goals of a 70% completion percentage and fewer interceptions.

For his part, Manning complied. He tried to cut down on the interceptions and started throwing the safer, higher percentage pass.

Since 2015 Manning has achieved completion percentages of 62.6, 63, and 61.6, the best three-year stretch of his career.

But maybe, just maybe the quarterback who led the league in interceptions multiple times was never actually broken. Maybe throwing caution to the wind was who he was.

Maybe the refusal to give a damn about stats like completion percentage or interceptions is exactly what allowed him to complete a miraculous pass to David Tyrees helmet with Rodney Harrison draped all over him in Super Bowl XLVII several plays after an interception slipped through Asante Samuels hands or what allowed him to make one of the greatest throws in Super Bowl history to Mario Manningham in 2011's rematch with New England.

He was fearless, sometimes to a fault, but he never failed for lack of trying and that attitude is why New York fell in love with the youngest member of footballs first family even though he didnt have his brothers remarkable stat-line.

His tape wasn't perfect; it was a beautiful mess. Eli is not Peyton--he never was or will be and that should have been just fine.

His never-back-down attitude has resulted in quite a few bad plays throughout his career, but its also been the catalyst for way more great plays especially in big moments when a lot of other quarterbacks would have folded under pressure.

In the years since Manning watched the head coach who had seen his transformation from a boy to a man say goodbye to the Giants organization, that never-back-down attitude has slowly morphed into a frustratingly cautious approach filled with check-downs and slant routes.

Whether its a product of an aging mental state, an abysmal offensive line, allowing himself to become a lab project for the coaches that replaced Coughlin, or a combination of all three is hard to say for sure.

One thing is certain, Manning is not consistently attempting the superhero play anymore. He appears to be content with just notmaking the big errors like he did in 2013 when he threw 27 interceptions playing on a bad team.

In Week 2 against Dallas Manning completed 75% of his passes for 279 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.

Not bad right? It would be tough to read that stat-line and say the loss was his fault, as opposed to when he used to throw two to three interceptions in a game where the offensive was obviously struggling to move the ball.

But he used to not take those types of losses lying down, the interceptions were because he had to try to make something happen (obviously not all of the interceptions, but a significant amount).

Neither losing scenario was/is entirely (or at all) his fault. Manning hasn't had a lot of help the past few seasons--the Giants have had virtually no running game since 2012 when they had their last 1,000-yard rusher in Ahmad Bradshaw and they also led the league in dropped passes a year ago.

Their struggles on the offensive line have also been obvious.

But the fact that Manning consistently appears content to check it down to his running back rather than take any kind of chance down the field is what has so many wondering what happened to the Eli of old.

Saquon Barkley had 14 receptions against the Cowboys, double that of tight end Evan Engrams second-best total of seven.

On all seven of the Giants third downs in the first half, Manning threw a pass that had to be caught short of the line to gain (unofficially).

His average completed pass this season is caught just 3.9 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Of course, some of this is not Mannings fault. He was just running the plays Pat Shurmur called and his offensive line apparently forgot how to block a basic stunt rush.

But its frustrating nonetheless to see what has become of the man who once attempted to complete a touchdown pass with his opposite throwing arm.

Manning is still very much physically capable of winning games for the Giants. He proved that last year in week 16 against the Eagles when he threw 54 times for 434 yards and three touchdowns.

On Sunday night against Dallas, Manning got drilled by Jaylon Smith and immediately popped right back up to call the next play.

As far as his lack of mobility in the pocket, well, McDonald's is still serving hamburgers and water is still wet. It appears nothing has changed since 2004.

Throughout his career, Manning has always relied on his nifty footwork to avoid the rush.

While there have been times when his offensive line has made it impossible for anyone to get a throw off, even when he does have a bit of time Manning has not been as aggressive.

There is still plenty of time for Manning and the Giants to turn things around in 2018, but if they want to start winning again they are going to need their hall-of-fame quarterback and those around him to remember who he is and why he's been so successful in the past.

Comments (2)
No. 1-1
M.Alvin
M.Alvin

Thanks. A great article asking a very good question: "What in the world happened to Manning's gunslinging mentality of the Tom Coughlin era?” But, for me a very frustrating article as well.

Yes, it’s true, Eli used to be a gunslinger with two … not one but two … amazing last-minute Super Bowl victories as well as countless regular season heroics. And then, from 2012 and 2014 he suddenly became interception-prone Eli and the solution was to get rid of the "real culprit" -- Kevin Gilbride and his antiquated, deep-passing, ‘O’ system.

And there was some logic in that. After all, Eli was getting creamed or intercepted every time he tried to complete deep passes downfield, so why not concentrate on more dump-offs, flares, and slants — which was not a big part of Gilbride’s downfield system? And so, instead of addressing a deteriorating ‘O’ line that hadn’t been replenished in years and ignoring receivers like Reuben Randal running the wrong routes or just quitting on routes, we decided to dump Kevin Gilbride.

Enter Boy-Wonder, Ben McAdoo, and his flavor-of-the-month West Coast Offense, soon to be followed by Pat Shurmur’s West Coast Offense and lo-and-behold, we now have an Eli with a higher completion percentage and an offense consisting of dump-offs, flares and slants because the exact same problem facing the Giants in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 hasn’t changed — NO FUCKING ‘O’ LINE!

Carl Banks, in describing the ‘D’ compares their play defending the run-pass-option to a dog chasing car until a hubcap falls off and then, instead of continuing to chase the car, the mutt chases the hubcap. The hubcap — like Kevin Gilbride and Tom Coughlin — is just a distraction, a fucking red herring. The problem wasn't Gilbride. The problem wasn’t Coughlin. The problem is, was, and continues to be the lack of personnel to address the single most pressing problem — THE FUCKING ‘O’ LINE!

Eli could have been -- and can still be -- the same gunslinging QB if we give him a legitimate 'O' line to operate behind. And if we don't -- and we haven't yet -- he's Shane riding off into the night with Brandon deWilde calling after him -- "Shane, come back!" -- and just like Brandon deWilde, we'll never see that gunslinger again.

The Giants are still chasing a fucking red herring hub-cap rolling down the street and the car is now miles away … and so is the gunslinger we loved and respected ... and so is any semblance of football respectability in the near future. "Eli, come back!"