There has been a lot of discussion at the end of the season about Giants Quarterback Eli Manning. He has his supporters and he has his critics. Certainly after a season of high expectations in which the Giants failed to get into the playoffs and 25 Interceptions and 85.3 Quarterback rating Eli had, it leads some fans to wonder if Eli Manning has regressed. What will his future be? Especially since his future is tied to the future success or failure of the New York Giants.
In examining the 6 losses of the Giants in this past 2010 season we can look at statistics and try to find common denominators in those losses. We can also compare them to the season’s body of work. In those games the average score was Giants 18 and the opposition 34.5. I think that tells a story in itself. Also remember that interceptions weren't the only turnovers in those games and the intangible is the momentum swing in each game. Let's look at the 6 loses.Two of which were decided by 7 points.
________Avg Score_Yards__TD__Int____Comp%___ Passer rating
This data speaks for itself. It's not all on Eli, but his worst TD to INT ratios were in those games. The turnovers (all turnovers) result in reversal of scores and change the battle of field position. We see the team also gave up an average of 34.5 points a game.
Did Eli carry the team in those 6 losses? Certainly not. He had poor stats in those losses. In one of those games the offense put up 31 points, the defense and Specials gave up 38. That loss killed the season, killed the momentum for the rest of the season, put the Eagles in the Playoffs and kept the Giants out. The fact is as bad as the defense and specials played, Eli and the offense had the opportunity to complete a couple of first downs and they failed. Those were the game changing moments that most fans remember for the body of work from last season. That is why some fans will wonder if Eli regressed or failed to get to the "next level" as they all expected.
Eli Manning’s story isn’t nearly over. I believe that if he gets continuity in his receivers and they spend a little more time together, good things will happen.
Speaking only from the liability aspect, here is what we have in Eli. He's big and somewhat awkward. He's not a true athlete that can fluidly move his body or his feet or shift his hips to make difficult plays. He can certainly slide within the pocket, escape a defender or roll out. When he does something that requires this type of movement other than the set up and throw, he is in danger of making a mistake. He avoids some of that motion in the shotgun, although he can set up a heck of a play action fake. When Eli runs with the ball or is put in a situation where he has to protect the ball on a run or against a pass rush, he appears to panic, is uncomfortable and can make poor decisions. Perhaps if he practiced being in these situations enough, he would perform better or understand his limitations in those situations and not force a mistake.
The much criticized shotgun allows Eli to read the field better, gives him more time to see the plays unfold and to read his progressions. Eli has a very strong arm. Still, he has to set up properly to make a solid throw. The shotgun eliminates the step drop and there are less steps involved in the setup of his feet to body and arm motion. When he doesn't have the proper mechanics or when a receiver runs his route slightly different than the play was intended, the pass will sail high or it sometimes will be behind the receiver because the receiver cut his route with the wrong timing or on the wrong marker. Many of the passing plays are designed as timing plays. Many incompletions and interceptions are not on Eli.
In Gilbride’s offense and in many offenses for that matter, the Quarterback has to read and understand a great deal of what is happening on the field. The receivers have to read their defender and how they are being covered. If the X receiver is jammed at the line and it's disguised so that Eli doesn't see it or the receiver take a split second longer to break the press and get free, the pass timing will also be off.
Now the question is what type of offense do you run with the talent Eli and the rest of the team has? Would an aggressive hurry up style offense work better than the read and adjust offense? By that I mean move the play quickly and dictate to the defense what their formation will be. Catch them with the wrong personnel on the field because the offense is not spending time reading the defense to react to their coverage. Call the play, line up quickly, read the mismatches in coverage and run the play.
That's a good question and I believe it's a combination of rhythm. I also believe that the offense should come out and mix up the set up of plays. Control the tempo better. On some possessions, you run to pass. On others you pass to run. You have to mix it up a bit, but you have to do both. I have seen this, with varying degrees of success. I think the criticism sometimes comes as to when this is being done in certain points of the game.
Eli is a rhythm quarterback. He needs to work into a game. he comes into the game with a strong arm and can overthrow passes. He lacks the touch of the short dump off or the screen pass unless he's setup properly to do it. Many times those passes are hitting the receiver at the wrong angle and are too hard. Poor execution in these type of plays will result in an incompletion or worse yet, a turnover. Remember however, how Eli would hit Tiki Barber either in the flat or in an intended dumpoff and it would result in huge yardage, because Tiki knew where to be, had fluid hips, good hands and was able to read the field to pick up his blocks downfield having Burress and Toomer blocking for him.
This year was the year we all thought that Eli and the offense would be dominating. Injuries however to Smith, Nicks, Manningham, Diehl, Suebert, O'Hara, Koets, Hedgecock and Hixon really had to have an effect on what the options were. Keep in mind also, there was a QB Coach change and a Receiver's Coach change too.
In light of all that, Eli and Gilbride did a heck of job just to accomplish what they did. Look at the difference in the year Peyton Manning had with the injuries and personnel he had to deal with. In recent memory he's a 50 TD QB, this season he had to carry the team on his back. The lack of a good running game will kill any QB. The lack of good pass protection will too. Even a Hall Of Fame Quarterback has to have the supporting staff to have success in this league.
I don't believe that the number of interceptions Eli had last season is any indication that we should expect this from him for the remainder of his career. Eli has at least 5 good years left and that's a good window for the receivers too. We all know that the offensive line will need to have changes in that timeframe. That is the questionable variable for the future success of this offense.
Eli is not Peyton, He's not Brady. He's going to have many more good games than bad games and he's going to put the team in a position to make at least one more Superbowl run before his career is over. In the words of JimV my esteemed colleague and I truly believe this too, when it's all over, history will speak for itself and fans will be looking for who the next Eli will be. Just like the love/hate relationship they had with Phil Simms, history looks at Phil in a favorable light, especially after the Quarterbacks that followed until the day Eli Manning was drafted.