Eli Manning’s run of good fortune in New York has run out. The quarterback who won his first of two improbable Super Bowl titles thanks in no small part to a helmet catch, is now leading an offense that would need a huge dose of luck just to score 20 points in a game.
New York’s latest prime-time debacle on Monday night at home against the Lions, a game in which all-universe receiver Odell Beckham returned from injury, saw the Giants put up just 10 points – meaning the Giants have just 13 points on the season and have now failed to crack 20 points in eight consecutive games dating back to late November of 2016. A team with Beckham and a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, a team that acquired Brandon Marshall in the offseason and drafted a tight end in the first round, simply can’t produce any points. Since Week 13 last year, the Giants have the lowest-scoring offense in the entire NFL. Yes, even lower than the football punch line they share a stadium with: the New York Jets, a team all but officially tanking for draft picks.
New York Giants’ offense sputters again in punchless defeat to Detroit Lions
Barring some sort of miraculous turnaround, one that would require New York’s offensive line suddenly learning how to block and Marshall figuring out how to reverse the hands of time, the 2017 Giants look like a bad team facing a long rebuild. And that fact raises the question: if the Giants aren’t a team that can win now, what do they need with a 36-year-old quarterback who is clearly on the downside of his abilities?
Manning is not the biggest problem with the New York offense, that is the offensive line and specifically left tackle Ereck Flowers, who was abused on Monday night to the tune of three sacks. But Manning has not been helping his cause either. With the Giants down 17-7 late in the fourth quarter and facing a 4th-and-goal from the two, Manning lost track of the game clock and was hit with a delay of game penalty, forcing the Giants to kick a field goal. After the game, head coach Ben McAdoo laid the blame at the feet of his 14-year veteran quarterback: “Sloppy quarterback play. The quarterback and center need be on the same page there. We’ve got to get the ball snapped,” McAdoo said. “We have a veteran quarterback who’s played a lot of football. I expect us to get the ball snapped.”
If only that was Manning’s worst play of the night. Manning also sacked Eli Manning in the game, crumpling to the ground before Ziggy Ansah even laid a hand on him.
As bad as that play looks, Manning has long been an easy sack, a self-preservation strategy that has enabled him to play in all 16 games for 12 seasons in a row. But it’s hard to watch him fall to the ground and not think about what a younger, more mobile quarterback would have done in the same situation. DeShaun Watson could have picked up 20 yards or more running. Even fellow veteran Alex Smith could have gone for 10.
Eli’s pocket passing and pocket-passing-only style is not designed for an offensive line that needs almost a complete redesign. And how old will Manning be by the time that unit is fixed? Is he really going to want to lose and get beat up for another year or two so he can make one last run at contention at 39 or 40?
Manning is already three years older than Kurt Warner was when the Giants jettisoned him to hand the franchise over to young Eli in 2005. The only problem is, the Giants of today have no heir apparent on the roster. Former Jets washout Geno Smith is the No2 and the third-string QB is Davis Webb, a 2017 third-rounder who most scouts believe has an upside of NFL back-up.
While the Giants hoped to contend this year, they may soon find themselves in the mix with the Jets among teams eyeing the quarterback-rich 2018 draft class. At 0-2 already, the schedule doesn’t get much easier. New York plays at Philadelphia this week, where they’re a six-point underdog. Then it’s at Tampa Bay, at home against a Chargers team that can score points, then on to Denver – where Eli and friends scoring at all will be a major upset – and then home against the Seahawks before the Giants get a Week 8 bye/mercy. It’s hard to realistically see this Giants team getting through that stretch better than 3-4 and it’s a real possibility they could be sitting at 1-6 or even 0-7. That’s a mark that would cause every Giants fan to make an Eli face.
As ugly as their record will be, it would give the Giants a shot at Sam Darnold, the USC quarterback expected to go No1 in next year’s draft. And if the Jets beat them at losing, college QBs like Josh Allen of Wyoming, Josh Rosen of UCLA and Lamar Jackson of Louisville would be available in the Top 10, as well. Taking a stud offensive lineman would be an option, too, if the Giants believe it’s enough to make one last run with a quarterback pushing 40. Spoiler alert: it would not be enough. These Giants are a lot more than one linemen away from contention.
But there is a third option would give their Giants the quarterback of the future and a top lineman in the draft. How would they do that? Trade Eli Manning. Yes. Trade him. If Peyton Manning could move on from the Colts, Eli can play elsewhere, too. To be clear: there are zero rumors of this happening, at least as of now; the Giants are still reeling over their current woefulness and haven’t moved onto the “Well, what now?” stage just yet. But maybe it’s worth a call to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team which employs former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin as the executive vice president of football operations. The Jaguars are a talented team in a winnable division, but a team that could desperately use an upgrade at quarterback. Maybe it’s a trade that works for both sides and the Giants get a good draft pick in return. Is it unlikely? Probably. But not as unlikely as the Giants ever winning a Super Bowl again while Eli Manning is still around.