Eli Manning is mentioned often these days as one of the Giants’ liabilities approaching the NFL playoffs due to his shortcomings this season, despite his two-time Super Bowl-winning pedigree.
Internally, however, the Giants’ coaches and players are quietly as excited as ever that Manning – and no one else – will be their quarterback when Wild Card Weekend arrives.
Coach Ben McAdoo couldn’t hold back any more and trumpeted that support for his franchise QB in a weekly in-house interview released on Friday, veering off-topic from a question about backup Josh Johnson to take a stand on the state of Eli as this team’s leader.
“Eli has great command of the offense, and he’s moving as well in the pocket as he has since I’ve been here. His arm strength is better than it was when I got here. Those questions don’t make a whole lot of sense to me, other than age,” McAdoo said defiantly. “With that being said, he’s a hell of a quarterback. Every time he hits the field, we have a chance with him. I’m excited to take this next step.”
It’s not like criticism of Manning’s performance this season is unwarranted.
Manning, who turns 36 years old next Tuesday, has turned the ball over 20 times, the most in his three seasons running McAdoo’s offense. The Giants offense has punted the ball more than any team in the NFL other than the lowly 49ers (2-13) and Rams (4-11). With a playoff berth on the line last week in Philadelphia, Manning threw three interceptions to one touchdown pass in a 24-19 loss to the Eagles.
McAdoo and Manning’s teammates don’t see the mistakes when they think of their quarterback, though. They see, as tight end Will Tye said on Friday, “a winner.”
“You know you’ve got a winner, definitely,” Tye said. “And that’s what you want: a guy that’s been there, that has great experience, that has that will and competitive spirit.”
Manning’s two memorable Super Bowl-winning drives in 2007 and 2011 no doubt were possible in part due to his physical gifts – like that perfect pass to Mario Manningham down the left sideline nearly five years ago – and also to a once-in-a-lifetime catch – David Tyree, come on.
Manning’s intangible to command an offense in those tight moments, though, regardless of what else has happened previously, is certainly what gives these Giants their greatest sense of calm now.
Ben McAdoo said Eli Manning is “a hell of a quarterback”
(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Defensive end Olivier Vernon says often that he signed with the Giants this past offseason because Manning was their quarterback. And on Friday, veteran kicker Robbie Gould explained how Manning’s presence at the helm also was a factor in his midseason free-agent signing in New York.
“You think of the pedigree of the family, and the leadership that those guys exist not only on the field but off the field.” Gould said of Manning’s father, Archie, and older brother Peyton. “But the other part of it, too, is I knew a couple of the guys on the team (before I signed). I’ve heard a lot of guys talk about the organization and the type of culture that (exists) around here. (Eli Manning) embodies that, and that was something – when I was looking to play on the next team I was going to – that’s what I was looking for.”
Manning, who will make an incredible 199th consecutive start on Sunday in Washington, simplified his postseason goal on Monday to: “We’re just going to have to make the plays on game day.”
It was a telling answer, since Manning’s career has been so marked by miscues and yet is highlighted by moments and stretches of greatness. All that matters is what Manning does on game day.
In fairness to Manning’s critics, he has only taken the Giants to the playoffs in five of his previous 11 seasons as a starter. Other than the two Super Bowl runs, Manning’s Giants have three one-and-dones on their resumes in 2005, 2006 and 2008.
Granted, this year, Manning hasn’t been the only problem with the offense. A bad running game, predictable play-calling, shaky protection and dropped passes all have reared their heads as major issues.
McAdoo, in fact, is correct on two points: Manning has been impressively mobile, and his velocity and arm strength don’t appear to have suffered with age. On the contrary, it has been Eli’s accuracy that seems to have taken a hit, which no doubt has been affected at least somewhat by uncertainty standing in a collapsing pocket.
Regardless, Giants fans expect more. The Giants need more. Manning knows he must give more for this team to win in the postseason. And the support and admiration of his coaches and teammates speaks volumes to their belief in his ability to do it.
“I believe,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said of Manning, “he is a great football player.”
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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News