Eli Manning has been the face of the New York Giants for over a decade, but the time to move on is sooner rather than later.
Outside of The Captain, Derek Jeter, no New York athlete has been as beloved as Eli Manning in the past 20 years. Giants fans suffered through quarterbacks like Dave Brown, Kent Graham, Danny Kanell, and Kerry Collins before Eli. Collins was okay, but you get the point.
Then-GM Ernie Accorsi made a draft-day deal with the San Diego Chargers to acquire Manning in 2004. Expectations were high for Peyton’s younger brother.
After a slow start early in his career, Eli Manning delivered on those expectations. Now in his 13th season, he’s a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP, has led countless Giants’ comebacks, and become a nationally recognizable face. He holds virtually all significant Giants’ passing records.
His legacy in blue is solidified. However, his future isn’t, nor should it be.
To say Manning has been bad this season would be an understatement. Eli has been awful, particularly in the last three weeks. Last night against the Packers was no revelation, it was just front-and-center for the world to see. Giants fans have seen it far too long.
Manning had been insulated from criticism while Odell Beckham Jr. grabbed headlines like one-handed receptions. He even added to the Beckham Jr. narrative last week after the Minnesota Vikings loss. Eli, who played as poorly as anyone, responded to media questions about OBJ by saying his receiver had brought scrutiny on himself.
Beckham cleaned his act up last night (if only for last night) and what came into focus was Big Blue’s real problem: their quarterback.
It isn’t that the offensive line has been great protecting him, because they haven’t. Many of the throws he missed had little to do with the protection.
He just flat-out missed open receivers on big, game-changing plays. He’s long had a tendency to do that every so often, but winning outweighed those mistakes. He’s missing more often this year, and he isn’t bailing the Giants out with late-game magic anymore.
Miami Heat president Pat Riley took a gamble when he allowed Dwyane Wade, the face of his franchise, to walk after 13 seasons. Supporters of that decision argued it’s better to cut ties with your aging superstar one year too early than one year too late. The postseason before, Wade proved he was still a bankable commodity.
Manning has not shown the Giants that level of production in some time. His numbers look better, but his play on the field tells a different story.
Manning has turned the ball over six times in five games. He has thrown two touchdown passes as opposed to three interceptions since Week 1.
The timing of his interceptions add emphasis: every pick he’s thrown has come in the second half.
The Giants haven’t returned to the playoffs since winning Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. Manning’s record over that period is 30-39. Those credentials typically don’t hold up in the biggest media market in the world.
Eli isn’t just anyone, though, he’s built a ton of equity in New York City. Ben McAdoo was brought in to “fix” him, and Tom Coughlin became the scapegoat when things didn’t work.
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GM Jerry Reese appears to be next (perhaps justifiably so). Eli, on the other hand, was rewarded with a four-year, $84-million extension before 2015. He’s the highest-paid QB in the NFL this season.
It’s time for the G-Men to invest in the future. Ryan Nassib doesn’t appear to be the guy, and he’s likely gone after this year. Big Blue needs to groom a QB to take the reins once they move on from Eli.
If the first five games are an indication of how the rest of 2016 unfolds, that must happen sooner than later. The longer the Giants hold off rebuilding, the further away they are from a return to their winning ways.