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OK, let’s start with putting all the cards on the table: I am as die-hard of a New York Giants’ fan as you will ever meet. I have been since I was about 14 years old. I can’t pretend to be unbiased when it comes to my G-Men. I have watched almost every single snap of Eli Manning’s career. I was in the building for his first start, a drubbing by a Michael Vick led Atlanta Falcons team.
So obviously, I’ve grown a little attached.
Everything going on around the Giants is a sad state of affairs right now. A horrendous 1-5 start is bad enough. Add to that Odell Beckham Jr.’s strange interview (featuring Lil Wayne, for some reason) and Giants’ owner John Mara telling Beckham through the media to quiet down and play better, you’re left with nothing but a mess. For me, the saddest part of that mess is the way Manning’s career seems destined to end poorly.
I’ve done some reflecting on Manning’s career over the past week. Here’s what I know. First, he is the best offensive player in Giant’s history. His 53,344 passing yards put him 6th all time. He’s the second best overall player in Giant’s history, behind Lawrence Taylor. He delivered two of the most improbable Super Bowl wins ever, along with two of it’s most iconic plays. Now, his career is going to end terribly and it isn’t his fault.
Former Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese certainly deserves a good portion of the blame. The Giants kept the man around for far too long as he had terrible draft after terrible draft. Sure, he made a few good selections, such as Beckham or All-Pro safety Landon Collins. But those were “can’t miss” picks. Anyone would have made them. Reese routinely failed in the middle to late rounds to find viable contributors to this team. His biggest failing was the offensive line (Ereck Flowers, anyone?). The result was Manning spent the better part of the past four years with little to no time to throw. Throw in the fact that Manning was never a mobile quarterback and you have a recipe for disaster.
John Mara and Steve Tisch, the Giants’ owners, also deserve a large portion of the blame. They kept faith with Reese despite him leaving the cupboard bare, year after year. They have routinely enabled Beckham’s behavior on and off the field. This past offseason, they tried to convince fans that this was a “win now” team, doubling down on Manning. Instead of selecting his replacement in Sam Darnold, who was available with the number two pick, the team instead drafted runningback Saquon Barkley. To be fair, Barkley has been nothing short of fantastic so far this season. But runningbacks have short careers and this was not the right move for this franchise. The offensive line is still terrible and the defense is mediocre at best. This was in no way a “win now” team. The Giants were 3-13 last season: did they really think that adding Barkley, along with one or two middling free agent pick ups (Left Tackle Nate Solder and Middle Linebacker Alec Ogletree) was suddenly going to turn this team into a contender?
And that leaves us with Eli Manning. Manning is 37 years old. Maybe the top brass in the organization was fooled by the seemingly ageless performances by older quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Maybe they thought he could play at a high level entering his fourth decade. If they did, they weren’t paying attention. Manning has always been a better than average quarterback with a tendency to come up big in tough spots (he’s 11th all time in fourth quarter comebacks, including two in the Super Bowl). Eli Manning is not Brady or Brees, two of the top five quarterbacks to ever play.
This team is terrible. There’s no other way to put it. Outside of Barkley’s brilliance, the offense hasn’t done much of anything. Being a quarterback means taking the heat and Manning has been taking it in droves. Is he done? I believe so but I can’t say for sure, because he hasn’t had time to show what he has left. He’s on his back or forced to throw it away immediately. That has been the state of affairs for years. At 37, yes he is probably done. But it is not his fault this organization has failed. It’s not his fault they haven’t given him a respectable offensive line. It’s not his fault Beckham has been allowed to do whatever he wants. Most importantly, it’s not his fault that this team has decided to roll out a 37 year old quarterback without a reasonable back up or plan for the future. Manning has continued doing what he has always done: show up every day, work hard, conducted himself professionally and given everything he can. It’s not his fault more is being asked of him than is reasonable.
So, to my fellow Giant fans, I say this: you should be mad. This season is an embarrassment. One of the proudest teams in NFL history is currently a laughing stock. Be mad at John Mara. Be mad at Steve Tisch. Be mad at current GM Dave Gettleman and former GM Jerry Reese. Feel free to be mad at Odell Beckham Jr.. But don’t be mad at Eli Manning. He’s given you everything he has for the better part of two decades. He’s never embarrassed this team. He gave us two Super Bowls. He doesn’t deserve to have his career end in such an ugly fashion. Cheer for Eli Manning. He needs our support, because the Giants sure haven’t given him any.