Nov 092021
 
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Quincy Roche, New York Giants (November 7, 2021)

Quincy Roche – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Throughout the course of a football season, every franchise hits adversity. Some of it is injury-based, some of it is off-field-based. The 1st-place Las Vegas Raiders, off to their best start in 5 years, have hit as much adversity off of the field as any team in the league. Team President Marc Badain shockingly resigned in July without warning, Head Coach Jon Gruden “resigned” in October amid turmoil that stemmed from emails sent a decade ago, and 2020 1st-round pick Henry Ruggs III was just released days ago after hitting and killing a 23-year-old woman and her dog while driving intoxicated. The Raiders have been put through the wringer, but to this point, they had proven to be able to rise above and win games, plain and simple.

The Giants’ final game prior to their bye week came on short rest against a team that had come off 13 days of rest. It was near, but not quite at, the tail end of a really difficult stretch of opponents that were all .500 or better in the win column. They were still without running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas in addition to slot receiver Sterling Shepard. Their offense has rarely operated at full strength this year, but it certainly did not look that way at the start of the game.

I have been vocal about how effective 1st-down play-action has been for Jones and the Giants offense. It forces him into simpler and more timely reads, but most importantly, it aids the offensive line. NYG opened the game with a 9-yard completion using 1st-down play-action. After 5 solid gains, 3 of which were positive running plays using Devontae Booker, NYG found themselves at the LV 30. 2nd-down play-action was the call again and Daniel Jones hit Evan Engram up the right sideline for a touchdown. NYG had the 7-0 lead just over 4 minutes into the contest. This was the final NYG offensive touchdown of the day.

The lead didn’t last long. LV has a first-round running back of their own, Josh Jacobs, who had been off to a tough start to the season. He appeared to be getting his game back on track on the first drive, gaining 39 of the team’s 73 yards as they marched down the field in just over 5 minutes, capping it off with a touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Hunter Renfrow. The teams traded scoreless possessions and then NYG made their first two big mistakes of the day.

Special teamer Keion Crossen was flagged for a personal foul after seeking out punter Andy Lee and laying him out about 15-20 yards away from the play. Instead of 1st-and-10 from the 49, NYG began with the ball from the 34. On the very first play, left tackle Matt Peart was beat by Yannick Ngakoue, who sacked Jones and forced a fumble which was recovered by LV. The NYG defense was able to plug the hole, keeping LV to a field goal. LV was up 10-7 as the second quarter was under way.

NYG was moving the chains via Booker and the short passing game. As they reached midfield again, they had a string of three plays that not only halted the drive but also pushed them back nearly 20 yards. A hold on guard Matt Skura, a 7-yard loss on a screen to Elijhaa Penny, and a 6-yard loss on a failed double-pass attempt using Kadarius Toney. NYG did then force a 3-and-out to get the ball back to Jones and the offense.

Booker continued to impress in addition to a solid pickup on a pass to Kenny Golladay to lead NYG back toward field-goal position. Jones started off 8-for-8 on the day. Another sack by Ngakoue killed the momentum, however, and NYG settled on a 35-yard field goal to tie the game. The first half ended with LV putting another 3 points on the board via a 32-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson, his 39th in a row from 40 or less yards. They had the lead, 13-10, at the break.

The NYG offense had gained 75 yards on their first 7 plays (10.7 per) of the game. Since then? 82 yards on 22 plays (3.7 per). The defense came out knowing they would have to create on their own if they had any shot in this one. They did so right away. Safety Xavier McKinney, an emerging player on this defense, took an interception into the end zone on the third play of the second half to give NYG a 17-13 lead.

The following LV possession was the longest of the day. A 15-play, 85-yard drive included just three third downs. Their offense was clicking and spreading the ball around as the NYG pass rush yet again struggled to get consistent pressure on deep drop backs. The defense did come up with another red-zone stop, however, holding LV to another field goal to get the visiting team within one. NYG marched into the red zone themselves and had a 1st down from the LV 20, but they too had to settle on a field goal. They increased the lead back to 4 as the 4th quarter was under way.

LV gained 67 yards on their first three plays. They were 1st-and-10 from the NYG 14 but the defense stepped up when it mattered most again, forcing LV into another short field goal attempt. This one from 25 yards. Carlson’s streak ended there, however, as he hooked it and saw the ball turn outside the uprights. NYG did not add any more points, but they did take over 3 minutes off of the clock before punting it back to Carr and the LV offense. This is the moment the NYG defense had been failing, but not today.

McKinney, the emerging player who had made the biggest play of the game to this point, came up with his second interception of the half. It was exactly what many of the NYG faithful had been wanting from the position for so long. Instincts, intelligence, reaction, closing speed, and ball skills. This gave NYG the ball back and they kept the clock moving to the point where LV had to burn their timeouts. The automatic Graham Gano hit his third field goal of the day to give NYG a 7-point lead with just over 3 minutes left.

The game did not end without drama, however. LV moved the ball rather easily. They traveled 52 yards and had a 1st-and-10 from the NYG 13-yard line with just under 1 minute remaining. On 2nd-and-10, an unexpected hero arose from the blind side. Quincy Roche, a 2021 5th round draft pick who was scooped off of waivers from PIT, sacked Carr and forced a fumble. Leonard Williams finished it off by hopping on the loose ball and that was it.

NYG wins 23-16.

See you in 2 weeks.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 15/20 – 110 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 104.2 RAT

Jones also added 17 yards on 4 carries. It is rare to see a quarterback throw the ball just 20 times in a game unless weather or time of possession was a major factor. Neither were true in this game. NYG was having success on the ground and there were too many mismatches in the trenches for Garrett to go pass-heavy. Jones had a few high-level throws in this one, but couldn’t get the ball downfield often. His fumble was a result of poor ball-handling in traffic (although the pressure came from the blind side). He took what the defense gave him, didn’t make any poor decisions, and came up with a handful of clutch throws. All of this with very little support up front. A solid, yet unspectacular game for Jones.

RUNNING BACK

-Devontae Booker: 21 att – 99 yards / 3 rec – 23 yards

Second week in a row for Booker where he could make a strong case for being the best offensive player of the game. Booker’s production was solid (4.7 yards per carry / 7.7 yards per catch), but it wasn’t a performance that took over the game. That isn’t the point. Booker was netting positive play after positive play. He was moving the ball forward time and time again with the occasional big gain. That means so much to an offense in more ways than one, and it is something Barkley should take note of moving forward. More on that below.

-Elijhaa Penny deserves mention. He gained 35 yards on 5 carries. The 2 biggest carries of the game were on the final drive where NYG’s main task was to bleed the clock. He had consecutive carries that gained 11 and 12 yards, respectively. Two plays later was his top play of the game, in my opinion. He took a pass and lost a yard, but made a quick decision to anchor himself in the ground near the sideline to keep the clock moving. It was an extremely intelligent football play.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Very quiet day from this group. They, as an entire position group, saw just 4 targets. I cannot remember a game where the receivers saw just 4 targets. Kenny Golladay caught both of his for 28 yards, Kadarius Toney caught his for a 9-yard gain to convert a 3rd-down, and Darius Slayton’s target was uncatchable.

-I can’t really comment much on the group overall, but I am disappointed that on a day where the offense mightily struggled, Toney was on the field for only 31 snaps. He was thrown to once, he was given one carry, and he was given one pass “attempt” (which resulted in a sack). There is a time to take what the defense gives you, but the best offensive minds find ways to get their best play-makers involved and in advantageous situations. Garrett dropped the ball here.

TIGHT END

-The tight end group received twice as many targets as the receiver group, another number I cannot recall ever seeing from this franchise. Kyle Rudolph caught a 9-yard pass on the first play of the game before bringing in another 11 combined yards on 3 more catches.

-Evan Engram caught his second touchdown in as many weeks on the longest NYG gain of the game. His 30-yard score included an impressive play on the ball right before the goal line. His two other receptions combined for just 8 yards.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-It appears that the mismatch in the trenches dictated a huge portion of the NYG play-calling. They, as a group, could not handle the LV pass rush, in particular on the outside. Matt Peart received the lowest grade on the line, allowing 2 sacks and 2 pressures. He was very good in the running game, however. He is a mauler who has natural power and good straight-line movement. His ability to come down on the defensive tackles and wash them out was on display multiple times. The skill set for pass protection, however, isn’t there yet. Nate Solder allowed 2 pressures.

-Matt Skura and Billy Price were both poor as well. Skura allowed a TFL and 2 pressures in addition to being flagged for a holding penalty. Price allowed a pressure and 2 TFL. For an offense that had a solid running game performance, these two did not contribute to it the way you would think. They both were getting pushed backward but were bailed out by the adjustment speed of Booker and Penny both.

-Will Hernandez had one of the best games we have seen out of him this season and one of the top-5 performances of his career according to my grading sheet. He, along with Peart, moved defenders off of the ball, locked on to his opponent, and finished blocks. I was really pleased with him although he struggled in space. The lateral quickness and reaction aren’t his thing and NYG needs to keep him out of those situations as much as possible.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams remains on fire, adding 5 more tackles, 3 more pressures, 1 PD, and fumble recovery to his season stat-line that is top-5 in the NFL at the position. There aren’t many defensive tackles who play 90% of the snaps and that is right where he was. My one negative on him was the three different plays where he was completely blown off the ball by 3-4 yards on LV running plays. He is a bit of a risk taker inside and that style of play fits the scheme well, but there will always be a few big plays in the other direction that come from it

-Dexter Lawrence is picking up steam. He added 6 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure as he played just over half of the snaps. His anchor against the double-team has improved over the past 3 weeks and his athleticism shows up at some opportune times.

-Unfortunately, Danny Shelton was back on the field after missing a couple games. He was on the field for 10 snaps, and he was dominated (pushed back 3-4 yards) three times. It was a bad look for him and I think I’ve seen enough to say he looks like he is finished.

LINEBACKERS

-With Lorenzo Carter injured and Oshane Ximines a healthy scratch, rookies Azeez Ojulari and Quincy Roche manned the outside spots. Have both flashed enough to warrant the idea that these two should be the feature guys after the bye week? Permanently? Absolutely not. However, I don’t want to see Carter and Ximines receiving the majority number of snaps simply because they entered the season as the starters. We already know what we are getting from them. Ojulari seems entrenched at one spot and rightfully so. Roche deserves his shot on other side. He came up with the sack-fumble to end the game along with 4 tackles and a pressure. Ojulari with 2 tackles, 1 PD, and 1 pressure.

-Tae Crowder bounced back after a poor game at KC. He had 9 tackles and 2 PD. He was playing twitchy and fast. He was the victim of a few poor defensive line plays where he had blockers at his feet in an instant, but when it came to his role playing, he performed well.

-Reggie Ragland is out-snapping Benardrick McKinney. They combined for 8 tackles, and I do see more on-field intelligence from Ragland. However, McKinney is notably faster to the outside and I think he plays more physically as well. I am fine with these two rotating, but eventually McKinney should be the guy to see more snaps. He has more upside.

CORNERBACK

-It was an interesting game from both James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson. Like a relief pitcher in baseball, this is a position that we see a lot of back-and-forth on week-to-week basis. In this game, we saw a lot of back-and-forth from series-to-series.

-Jackson made a physical tackle early on in the game but was notably shaken after that. He didn’t come out, but he did play soft rest of the way. He missed 3 tackles from that point, and they all seemed like your classic business decisions. However, he was very good in deep coverage and was the main reason why Bryan Edwards was shut out.

-Bradberry had a couple of key stops on 3rd down, but he was also beat for a touchdown on the opening drive and was luckily not exposed in the box score on two2 others. Carr overthrew Darren Waller on a play where Bradberry was 5+ yards behind the tight end up the seam. Bradberry was also beat later on by Zay Jones badly, but Carr pulled the ball down and scrambled too early to see it. Bradberry was also flagged for illegal contact and missed a tackle. Poor game for him.

-Where Jackson and Bradberry fell short, Darnay Holmes stepped up. He is such a fun player to watch with how borderline-reckless he plays. He did get beat badly by Renfrow on 3rd down but added two pressures as a blitzer. His speed and burst are weapons within the NYG blitz package.

SAFETY

-Xavier McKinney came up with his second multi-interception performance of the year. Both picks in this game were high-level plays on the ball that showcased intelligence, skill, and talent. His role and versatility within this defense are growing and he appears to be the kind of difference maker this defense desperately needs.

-Logan Ryan led the team with 9 tackles including one of the overlooked but vital plays of the game. With the game deep into the 4th quarter and NYG up by 4, Ryan made a key 3rd-down tackle on Josh Jacobs at the 7-yard line. Ryan is among league-leaders in tackles by defensive backs, but his 2 missed tackles added to a total in that department that is alarmingly high. I appreciate everything Ryan is doing for this team on the field and off of it, but the missed tackles are a weekly issue. Remember, he has spent more time at corner than safety in the NFL and he was a college corner. Tackling from a safety is an asset or a liability. Ryan is on the wrong side of that right now.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 35, 32, 38)
-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 48.7 avg – 47.0 net

3 STUDS

-S Xavier McKinney, OG Will Hernandez, DT Leonard Williams

3 DUDS

-OT Matt Peart, OG Matt Skura, CB James Bradberry

3 THOUGHTS ON LV

(1) The Raiders are in a rare 4-way tie for 1st place in the AFC West theoretically. They are one of four teams that currently have 5 wins. Prior to the year, everyone worth listening to had KC or LAC at the top of this division and here we are, at or near the halfway point and this team has as many reasons to believe they are the class of the division as everyone else. Despite the adversity, their leadership is there in key spots. In addition, anyone who has followed sports for long enough understands that adversity, in some cases, is what binds a team together and brings on a result greater than the sum of its parts. I see LV being that team.

(2) Two of the most important players on this team are recovering alcoholics/addicts. Tight End Darren Waller (5th among TEs in receiving) and Defensive End Maxx Crosby (NFL leader in QB knockdowns) had their own respective careers nearly ruined by drugs and/or alcohol. It is refreshing to see, especially with the turmoil surrounding this team, that there are young men who do turn things around. We should always remember that there are players worth taking calculated risks on, especially prior to joining the NFL. Some of the backgrounds these kids have coming out of college are beyond what many can even comprehend. Sure, there are cases where entering the league and making that kind of money will worsen their habits but the potential for value (from a football perspective) is part of the equation. The 2021 cap hit of these 2 players COMBINED is $7.4 million. $2 million less than Nate Solder alone.

(3) How is the Mike Mayock experiment panning out? The long time NFL Draft analyst took over the General Manager job prior to the 2019 NFL Draft. They won 7 games in 2019, 8 in 2020, and are on track to win 10+ in year 3. His drafts have been very good. 7 out of 9 players from the 2019 Draft are starters or key contributors, 2 out of 7 players from the 2020 draft are key contributors, and early returns on the 2021 class are solid. The biggest black eye comes from the 2020 class, as both 1st rounders were used on players who were cut in the past week. Ruggs, and just-released cornerback Damon Arnette for his own off-field trouble. Now that Gruden is out and knowing Mayock a little bit personally, I can see their key focus moving forward revolving around character even more so. Vegas is not the ideal town for young kids with big money and lack of character.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) This was a very poor offensive game by NYG. How poor? They averaged 4.5 yards per play. The worst offense in the league entering week 9, the Chicago Bears, average 4.4 yards per play. The Miami Dolphins were the next worst at 4.7 yards per play. NYG did this against a defense that is middle of the road in perfect weather conditions at home. While they are still missing Barkley and Thomas, 2 key players, their absence wasn’t enough to warrant this kind of performance. The culprit remains mainly personnel (offensive line) but what I find inexcusable is the lack of effort to get a player like Toney more involved.

(2) Speaking of Barkley being out and, in this game, it not impacting the game a lot, I did some digging on this team’s success with and without Barkley. With #26 on the field at the start of the game, NYG is 9-27 (.250 winning percentage). In games he did not play in at all, NYG is 9-12 (.429 winning percentage). Football sample sizes are often not large enough to come up with objective statements compared to analytics in other sports, however this is worth noting. No, the discussion of whether Barkley is more talented than guys like Booker or Wayne Gallman isn’t even a discussion (although Barkley can learn a thing or two from Booker). We know the answer there. The question has more to do with his future with NYG. Coming from someone who wanted Barkley at #2 overall, there are several things to think about regarding what NYG should do with him over the next 12-18 months. I look forward to those discussions and assume most can be mature and respectful about it. It is going to be an interesting situation to follow.

(3) 3-6 is not a good place to be in this league. With that said, I am a mathematics guy and if there is a fighting statistical chance for post-season play, I always like to think about possibilities. Based on the top-heavy feel of the NFC (the top 4 are in their own tier), the wildcard spots will likely come down to an 8- or 9-win team making the postseason. Can NYG go 5-3 from this point on? 5 of their 8 games remaining are against teams with losing records. Their toughest opponent left (TB) will come with the Giants having a huge rest advantage and with the team having their key missing pieces back in play. I’ll say it because it is true. NYG is in the hunt. Not because they are a very good team, but because they are a team approaching the middle tier and there are a lot of holes in the NFC. The middle tier in this conference is rather bad, to be blunt.

Nov 072021
 
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Xavier McKinney, New York Giants (November 7, 2021)

Xavier McKinney – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 23 – LAS VEGAS RAIDERS 16…
The New York Giants’ defense led team to a 23-16 upset win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the victory, the Giants improved their overall record to 3-6.

Statistically, the Raiders held big advantages in first downs (24-16), total net yards (403 to 245), and net yards passing (286 to 96). But the Giants out-rushed the Raiders (149 to 117) and won the all-important turnover battle (3 to 1). The Raiders were also a dreadful 1-of-6 in red zone efficiency.

The Giants’ lone offensive touchdown of the game came on their first possession as New York drove 75 yards in seven plays to take a quick 7-0 lead. Running back Devontae Booker broke off a 16-yard run on 3rd-and-1, and two plays later, quarterback Daniel Jones threw a perfect deep sideline pass to tight end Evan Engram for a 30-yard touchdown.

The lead did not last long as the Raider too scored their only offensive touchdown of the day on their first possession. Las Vegas drove 73 yards in 10 plays, culminating with a 2-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Derek Carr. The game was tied at 7-7.

After both teams exchanged punts on their respective second drives, the Raiders immediately got the ball back when Jones was strip sacked. Las Vegas recovered at the New York 30-yard line. The Raiders reached the 6-yard line but could get no further and settled for a 25-yard field goal to give themselves a 10-7 advantage.

Both team exchanged punts again. The Giants’ offense finally put together another scoring possession by moving the ball 43 yards in nine plays to set up a 35-yard field goal by Graham Gano to tie the game at 10-10. Unfortunately for New York, the defense yet again this year allowed the opposition to score points on their final drive before halftime. With 3:17 left on the clock, the Raiders drove 56 yards in 10 plays and kicked a 32-yard field goal with less than 10 seconds before the break.

At the half, the Raiders led 13-10.

Momentum began to switch in New York’s favor right from the start of the 3rd quarter. On 3rd-and-7 from their own 35-yard line, Carr threw a pass towards the left sideline that was picked off by safety Xavier McKinney, who returned it for a 41-yard touchdown. The Giants were quickly back up 17-13.

The Raiders scored their final points of the game on their ensuing possession, a marathon, 15-play, 85-yard, 8-minute drive that was halted at the New York 7-yard line. Las Vegas picked up five first downs on this possession, including a 4th-and-1 conversion. Place kicker Daniel Carlson kicked his second 25-yard field goal of the game (and third overall) to cut the score to 17-16.

The Giants responded with a 13-play, 62-yard possession. While it only resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Gano, the drive did take take over six minutes off of the clock and put New York back up by four points, 20-16, early in the 4th quarter.

The Raiders were able to once again drive the field on the ensuing possession, their third of the second half. Las Vegas picked up four first downs and drove 70 yards in eight plays to reach the New York 7-yard line. Carlson was sent in to kick his third 25-yard field goal of the game, but this one he missed wide left. With 9:28 left to play, New York still held a 4-point advantage.

The Giants were able to pick up two first downs before being forced to punt, pinning the Raiders at their own 12-yard line. Three plays later, McKinney picked off his second pass from Carr, this one a toe-tapping, sideline interception at midfield with 5:12 left. Fullback Eli Penny, subbing for the injured Devontae Booker who left the game with a hip injury, picked up 25 yards on three straight carries. The Giants could not pick up their third first down on this possession and settled for a 38-yard field goal to give them a full-touchdown advantage at 23-16.

The final possession of the Raiders began at their own 25-yard line with 3:21 left to play. New York’s bend-but-don’t-break defense made things interesting, allowing Las Vegas to to pick up 52 yards and four first downs, reaching the Giants 13-yard with 44 seconds left in the contest. But on 2nd-and-10, linebacker Quincy Roche beat the left tackle and sacked Carr, causing a fumble that defensive lineman Leonard Williams recovered at the 23-yard line. Jones knelt on the ball one play to bleed the clock and end the game.

Jones was under heavy pass pressure when he dropped back and finished the game 15-of-20 for 110 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. Only three of his completions went to a wide receiver. He was officially hit six times, sacked twice, and fumbled once. Jones also carried the ball four times for 17 yards. No pass target had more than four catches or 38 yards. Booker carried the ball 21 times for 99 yards before leaving the game with a hip injury. Penny carried the ball five times for 35 yards.

Aside from generating three turnovers and holding the Raiders to 1-of-6 in red zone efficiency, the defense also held Las Vegas to 4-of-12 (33.3 percent) on 3rd down. Carr was only sacked once, but the hit by Roche caused the game-winning turnover.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Saturday, the Giants activated LB Elerson Smith to the 53-man roster from Injured Reserve.

The Giants also elevated WR Pharoh Cooper and LB Trent Harris to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad.

Inactive for the game were RB Saquon Barkley (ankle), WR Sterling Shepard (quad), LB Lorenzo Carter (ankle),S Nate Ebner (ankle), and LB Oshane Ximines.

TE Kaden Smith (evaluated for concussion) and RB Devontae Booker (hip) both left the game with injuries. Booker was asked about his hip after the game and he responded, “It’s great. Went back, got x-rayed on it and everything was good.”

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
The Giants did not allow a second-half touchdown for the third consecutive game.

The Giants have one of the NFL’s best records in a game prior to a regular-season bye: 22-11 (.667).

The Raiders became the seventh opponent to score against the Giants in the final 1:33 of the first half and sixth in the final 36 seconds.

QB Daniel Jones tied his career-high by completing 75% percent of his passes. Jones completed all nine of his passes in the first half, the first Giants quarterback to do so since Phil Simms in 1993.

The Giants and Indianapolis Colts are the only teams with a takeaway in every game this season.

PK Graham Gano has made 19-of-21 attempts this season.

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Nov 052021
 
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THE STORYLINE:
Individual fans are going to look at the meme pictured above and say, “Easy choice.” I beg to differ. In my mind, this is an incredibly difficult decision to make and it should not be taken lightly. I’ve noticed fans regularly comment that things “can not possibly get worse” only to see things get worse. Here’s a little secret…it can always get worse.

The Case for Blowing It Up: At the heart of this argument is that “the Giants’ way” is not working. Many have argued for years that John Mara is too wed to a system that is clearly no longer producing results and that he is too loyal to people who are not good at their jobs. There are some who go so far as to insist that the Mara family needs to be removed from all football decisions and hire a new general manager from outside of the Giants’ family who has final say in all football matters. Many (but not all) of these fans also believe that Joe Judge and/or Daniel Jones are not the answer, and the Giants are wasting time by not ripping off the band-aid and moving on as quickly as possible. Some feel that any new outside general manager should not be encumbered with a head coach or quarterback he did not select. Mara has been far too patient with Dave Gettleman, who he never should have hired in the first place. Injuries and strength of schedule are not sufficient excuses for yet another lost season before the midway point.

The Case for One More Year: While it sounds like a loser’s lament, there is truth in the claim that the Giants have been the victim of bad luck this season. Significant injuries to important players have sabotaged the incoming draft and free agency classes that were supposed to make a big difference. This has been especially true on offense, where the offensive line and wide receiving corps has been a walking M.A.S.H. unit, not to mention that Saquon Barkley can’t stay on the field. While all teams have to deal with injuries, once again, Daniel Jones has been surrounded with subpar players who are impacting the Giants ability to block, catch, and run.  Exacerbating the situation is the strength of schedule that the team has faced. The Rams and Cowboys are perhaps the best teams in the NFC. An undermanned Giants team was expected to get destroyed in Kansas City, but it didn’t. The Giants upset the Saints and Panthers. The other big issue that many don’t want to think about is if the Giants blow it up, they are going to have to start all over again. That means a 3-4 year roster rebuild. At best, the team won’t likely seriously compete until 2025. Mara is likely to have final say in any head coaching hire and thus far, his track record in that area has resulted in two coaches who have been fired after two seasons, and now a third who may be fired after his second season. Psychologically, fans of losing teams are pre-wired to want dramatic change. “Blow it up and start over!” doesn’t always result in a better outcome, however. Do the Giants really want to hire their fourth new head coach in eight years?

We’re basically at the midway point of the 17-game schedule, with nine games left to play. It’s premature to make any final decision yet. But we all know it’s not too early to start thinking about the options. Right or wrong, much will probably depend on how the Giants finish these last nine games. There is a lot at stake.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • RB Gary Brightwell (COVID protocol – questionable)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (knee – questionable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (quad – out)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (thumb – probable)
  • WR John Ross (quad – questionable)
  • WR Dante Pettis (IR/shoulder – out)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – probable)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (ankle – out)
  • S Nate Ebner (ankle – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
I think a lot of readers think I’m a Daniel Jones apologist. Perhaps. I would argue that it is foolish to ignore the significant handicaps that he has had to endure. Since he has been drafted, for one reason or another, the team has been unable to surround him with competent blockers, receivers, and runners. Lack of talent and injuries have all been issues. In my view, in the simplest terms, I thought Jones had a remarkable rookie season (except for the fumbling), took a step back his sophomore season, and has been better this season. I could go on with specifics, but Daniel Jones threads have become a boor on BBI. In a nutshell, unfortunately, I still don’t think we know what we truly have in Jones. I see people who say he doesn’t have “it.” Well, I saw “it” in the remarkable comeback victory against the Saints. I also thought he pretty much carried an undermanned offense on his back against the Panthers. He had one terrible bad turnover game against the Rams. He’s thrown two interceptions in the other seven games. He’s only lost one fumble this year. On the flip side, the issue remains that New York simply is not scoring enough points. How much of that is on Jones and how much of that is on the players who are missing at running back, wide receiver, and the offensive line is a matter open to debate. I would love to see Jones play with Barkley, Golladay, Shepard, Toney, and a decent offensive line for just 3-4 games in row. Thus far, the football gods haven’t seen fit to allow that to happen.

As for the offensive line, Andrew Thomas remains on Injured Reserve. What might have been with him fully healthy and a healthy Nick Gates is something else that preys on my mind. The good news is that the starting reps that Matt Peart is receiving – both good and bad – will benefit him down the road. I’d like to see Ben Bredeson get back into the line-up. I’m surprised he hasn’t but maybe his hand isn’t fully recovered.

Fans already know what I think about Engram. Tight end will be an offseason priority, regardless of who is coaching this team. The injury situation at wide receiver is ridiculous. Everyone is hurt. Most problematic is Kenny Golladay. He was supposed to be the #1 difference maker as an offseason acquisition. He has played only about half the snaps this year and only has 17 catches. Making matters much, much worse is Barkley, who has also missed half of the season and only has 54 carries. So much was dependent on how these two performed in 2021. They, along with Jones, were supposed to be the heart of the offense.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
After a miserable start, the Giants defense has played much better in the last two games. I am a tough grader on defense and I would have liked to have seen this side of the ball not give up those two late field goals against the Chiefs. That’s the next step forward. Get the ball back and win the game when the offense is struggling. But holding Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to 20 points on Monday night at Arrowhead is pretty darn good.

As much as folks question Joe Judge and Jason Garrett, the jury is still out on Patrick Graham too. His defenses have been too much Jekyll and Hyde his first two seasons as defensive coordinator. In 2020, he had the built-in excuse of issues in the secondary combined with the ongoing absence of an outside pass rush. But the talent was better this year and his defense was struggling even before the loss of team captain Blake Martinez. These last nine games are important for him and his unit too.

Sy’56 has already highlighted the need to address edge rusher again. He and I share the same desire to see more of Quincy Roche, something I mentioned in last week’s preview. That should happen with Lorenzo Carter still out. I wish Oshane Ximines was the real deal. He seems like a great guy, but it’s just not working out for him. I know fans are already writing off Tae Crowder. I wouldn’t just yet. He’s a former running back turned linebacker and is still learning the position. He only played the position one season in college. The good news in the secondary is Adoree’ Jackson has now played two strong games in a row, and that has made a big, big difference.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Not to pile on Joe Judge, but I have to admit that expected much more out of the special teams unit the past two years than we are getting. He was supposed to be some special teams guru and thus far it hasn’t translated to the football field. The special teams haven’t been a problem, but they haven’t been noticeably good either, especially if you take Graham Gano out the equation. I’ve bitched about our punter for a couple of years now. I still don’t know why competition wasn’t brought in to challenge him in camp.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett on Saquon Barkley missing another game:You just control what you can control.

THE FINAL WORD:
I know I’m opening myself as being labeled an excuse-maker, but I feel the team is a bit snake bit right now. This false positive fiasco had to be a huge distraction on a short week. The Raiders are also experiencing their own drama, but they are coming off of the bye. A win before the bye would give the Giants at least something positive to build upon. Then maybe they can get some of the walking wounded back and do some damage in the second half of the schedule.

Dec 062017
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (December 3, 2017)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders 24 – New York Giants 17

RECAP

In what may have been the most controversial week in NYG history after the benching of legendary quarterback Eli Manning for Geno Smith, Big Blue headed to the Black Hole to take on the 1st-place-pursuing Raiders. They were missing their own two star receivers as the Giants continued to compete with a roster full of replacement-level players.

The Giants started off with the ball and were 3-and-out, a result that was repeated over their first three drives. The Raiders, on the flip side, scored a touchdown on their first drive. Marshawn Lynch dashed through the middle with the Giants linebackers getting lost in traffic and 51 yards later crossed the goal line for the game’s first score.

On the Giants fourth drive, they finally found some flow. Smith had a nice stretch, going 4/5 for 54 yards, including a 29-yard pitch, catch, and run to Evan Engram. Orleans Darkwa finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run up the middle to eve the score at 7 a piece.

After a 4th-and-1 stuff, the Giants got the ball back near midfield and 2 plays later, they were already in field goal range. Smith stayed hot until he fumbled on a sack by the untouched Bruce Irvin. Raiders took the ball back put together a 12-play drive that resulted in a 39-yard field goal. Raiders led 10-7 with less than 4 minutes left in the first half.

With under 1 minute left I the half, the Giants forced a punt from deep in Raiders territory, but a well executed block attempt resulted in OAK punter Marquette King tucking the ball rather than kicking, giving the Giants the ball on the OAK 9-yard line. The opportunity for a major momentum shift heading in to halftime was there for the taking. After an offsides penalty brought NYG to the 4, Smith dropped back on 2nd down and once again was sacked, lost the football, and turned it back over to OAK. Giants went in to halftime trailing 10-7.

Quality defense, or poor offense depending on the way you look at it, dominated the 3rd quarter. Neither team could really get a drive going and it ended with a Landon Collins fumble recovery created by cornerback Brandon Dixon in his first game with the team. The NYG offense failed to capitalize with another 3-and-out, giving OAK the ball back at the start of the 4th quarter.

The short passing game was able to pick up big chunks of yardage, getting OAK to the NYG 9-yard line and on first down, Deandre Washington rushed into the end zone with Landon Collins badly missing a tackle on the play. NYG then responded with a touchdown drive of their own, with Smith hitting Engram in the end zone after he ran an outstanding route. The score was 17-14 but the all-of-the-sudden hot OAK offense put together another short touchdown drive, this time ending with a pass from Carr to Johnny Holton from 9 yards out.

NYG was down 10 with 3:19 left. They got up into field goal range with OAK playing a prevent defense and because they were down 2 scores, they attempted and made a 52 yard field goal. After an unsuccessful onsides attempt, OAK rushed for a first down and NYG had to watch the clock disappear as they lost their 10th game of the year.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Geno Smith: 21/34 – 212 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Smith also fumbled twice, turning the ball over both times. In the first NYG game where Eli Manning did not start in 210 games, Smith did a fine job of staying focused and playing within himself. He avoided the bad decisions and made some really strong armed throws into tight windows. The accuracy wavered back and forth a bit, but Smith did not lower the level of this offense by any means. He played a decent game.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 14 att/32 yards – 1 TD. There wasn’t a lot of running room for Darkwa, as the middle of the OAK defensive line dominated the point-of-attack from start to finish. Darkwa, in addition, didn’t break tackles at the rate he has been all year. He isn’t a guy who will create much on his own.
  • Paul Perkins: 3 att/12 yards – Perkins wasn’t on the field much, but that shiftiness and ability to miss contact when he gets just a little bit of space jumped off the screen in his three carries. He is a guy whot got a raw, raw deal in 2017.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 3 rec/56 yards. Shepard goes unappreciated by some because he won’t ever be a number one guy and won’t ever be a deep threat. But this kid, a second-year WR, is as tough as they come and shows some of the best ball skills you will find in the league.
  • Tavarres King: 4 rec/23 yards: King led the team with 9 targets, as Smith was looking his way several times on short routes near the sideline. He does a nice job of getting open, but beyond that he is just a limited player. He also had a drop late in the game.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 7 rec/99 yards – 1 TD. After a really tough 3-week stretch, Engram has come on strong two straight weeks, with this OAK game being arguably the best we have seen this year. He made an amazing one-handed grab over the middle with a defender draped all over him, ran an amazing route on his touchdown catch that tricked fellow rookie safety Karl Joseph badly, and had one amazing run after a catch that reminded all of us that this kid is a wide receiver-caliber athlete. He has some “special” in him and the fact he has responded very well to his mid-season adversity is a very good sign.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: After a tough game last week, Chad Wheeler was entering Oakland with a huge test on his hands. Prior to suffering a concussion in the 2nd half, Wheeler had allowed a sack and 2 pressures. Not bad, but certainly not good, either. Wheeler has outperformed Bobby Hart (whom came in for the injured Wheeler) but he still has a long ways to go in terms of earning a future job here. Ereck Flowers graded out below average for the 5th time this year. He also allowed a sack and 2 pressures, appearing to struggle with any sort of different look the Raiders threw at him. Stunts, blitzes, zone blitzes – he just doesn’t see that stuff.
  • Interior: Center Brett Jones had his worst game of the year, and just like a lot of young centers in the league, has seem to worsen over time. The league has started to figure him out, especially trying to get him on an island as a pass blocker where he is a low-level player. John Jerry had a quiet game, no major mistakes but he rarely got movement off the line of scrimmage as a run blocker. Jon Halapio actually graded out as the best Giants OL of the day, right at the point where I call it “above average”. He won almost all of his 1-on-1 battles and the sack he allowed was more due to Geno Smith than anything.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Olivier Vernon finished with 4 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. His impact went far beyond the stat sheet, as he was very disruptive. He was consistently getting penetration outside, setting the edge against the run which is a crucial role. He had a hard time getting by Donald Penn in the passing game, but when Penn went down with an injury, he absolutely abused rookie David Sharpe. Jason Pierre-Paul had a quiet game – 3 tackles, also 1 of which was for a loss. There has been talk about a lack of effort with him and while I do think his engine is a little hot/cold, I’ve always noted that his conditioning worsens as the year goes on. That is something I have had on him for the past few years. He just tires out too fast.
  • Tackles: Because we see it each week, the appreciation for Damon Harrison may get overlooked here and there. But he had another incredible game, tossing blockers aside with ease and making tackles. There isn’t a DT in the game like him. Dalvin Tomlinson was up and down. His movement ability and initial pop can make plays, but there are still stretches where he gets blown back 3-4 yards in short-yardage situations. The one weakness to his game is that he isn’t overly stout against power plays. Jay Bromley played just under 40% of the snaps, and struggles to make any impact. He is kind of just there. He isn’t hurting the defense, but doesn’t do anything to stand out.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson was back, but went down with another injury. He is very effective when he’s in there but the question deserves to be asked, is this guy going to be able to hold up in the NFL with his physical play? This LB situation may be priority A for the new regime when it comes to the defense and as much as I like Goodson, I’m not sure he is someone who can be relied on.
  • Kelvin Sheppard led the team with 8 tackles and even though he isn’t a starting-caliber player in this league, he does bring  physical presence and attitude to the defense. He is a guy worth having around. Calvin Munson looked good in space and recorded NYG’s lone sack. It’s been a solid year for the UDFA. Devon Kennard split time between LB and DE again, but didn’t do much to stand out.

CORNERBACKS

  • With Janoris Jenkins on IR, opportunity arose for practice squad CB Brandon Dixon. And I’ll say this about him, I look forward to watching what he can do the rest of the year. He competed really hard and seemed to have the reaction speed I look for. While the OAK receivers were missing their top 2 guys, Dixon had some serious speed to defend against. He broke up 2 passes and forced a fumble that was recovered by Landon Collins. He did, however, drop an easy interception.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had 2 hustle plays that I was more than happy to track. He had a little stretch earlier in the year where I wondered if he was checking out, but he has been playing his butt off these past few weeks.
  • Don’t look now, but Ross Cockrell might be the second-best CB on this team behind Jenkins. He has been getting better each week and the All-22 tape is very complimentary of him. I think he is a piece worth holding onto hard this offseason.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins had another solid game. It seems like the scheme is keeping him close to the line of scrimmage more often than what we saw earlier in the year, which is a good thing. He is a dominant downhill player with sideline-to-sideline range against the run, but he just isn’t a quick-twitch cover man. He also struggles on angles against speed, the missed tackle of Deandre Washington on his TD run was another example of that.
  • Darian Thompson did an excellent job in deep coverage. Raiders QB Derek Carr was looking to throw deep four times but Thompson’s quick reads and movement got him in position to prevent the attempts. His play has really elevated in the past 4-5 weeks.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – Made 52 yds. Rosas got one shot late in the game to make it a one score game, and he booted a 52 yarder that hit halfway up the net. When this kid lines it all up, he has as strong a kick as anyone in the NFL.
  • Brad Wing: 7 Punts – 48.4 avg. His 45.1 net is an outstanding, top-tier performance. Sometimes we forget how much easier it is for kickers in weather like that.

3 STUDS

  • TE Evan Engram, DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul, OT Chad Wheeler

3 THOUGHTS ON OAK

  • All of the sudden this team is in a 3-way tie for 1st place in the AFC West. They are potentially on track for a home playoff game. Keep that in mind when you remember this team started off 2-4 while the Chiefs were surging to a 5-0 start. Every year there are examples of overreactions to stretches in a season and people needing to simply let things play out. A lot can and does happen in 17 weeks.
  • WR Johnny Holton is going to be a big name within the next year or two. He is one of the fastest players I have seen all year and his route running has improved by leaps and bounds from preseason. With Crabtree and Cooper out, he got to display his ability and I liked what I saw.
  • OAK has one of, if not the, highest-paid offensive lines in football. And they have graded out to be a top 10-unit, but that’s about it. Buyer beware when throwing huge money at players on the OL.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • The Eli Manning benching for Geno Smith topic has been discussed over and over and I am sure we are all sick of it. My thought from the beginning has been this and I won’t say much else on the matter: Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese knew their time was coming to and end unless a late-season surge (wins) occurred. I think an underlying thought was to try to catch lightning in a bottle a la Case Keenum in MIN, and see if Geno could win a few games via good performance so that McAdoo/Reese could make a plea to ownership stating it was Manning’s fault, not theirs, for the horrid 2017.
  • Who’s up next for NYG as GM and coach? We can throw the usual names around that always pop up: Saban, Shaw, McDaniels, Gruden, etc. I think NYG is going to be patient on this to see if any current coach shakes free from a firing of their own. I think they want someone IN the game to coach, not someone that has been on the outside. Two names who I think are on their own respective hot seat who owners will like: Marvin Lewis from CIN and John Fox from CHI.
  • As for the team that still has 4 games to play, I think the energy will be high now that the coach is out and Eli is back in the saddle. We see things like that happen often. And I think NYG wins this week against DAL.
Dec 032017
 
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New York Giants Fans (December 3, 2017)

© USA TODAY Sports

REPORT – BEN MCADOO COULD BE FIRED ON MONDAY…
Before today’s game started, ESPN reported that New York Giants Head Coach Ben McAdoo could be fired by the team as early as Monday. Giants’ team owners John Mara and Steve Tisch were at today’s game but refused to comment on this report.

OAKLAND RAIDERS 24 – NEW YORK GIANTS 17…
The New York Giants were defeated in a sloppy game by the Oakland Raiders 24-17 on Sunday afternoon. With the loss, the Giants fell to 2-10 on the season. Geno Smith started the game for Eli Manning, who was benched by the team earlier in the week. It was the first time a quarterback other than Eli Manning started a regular-season game for the Giants since November 2004.

The Raiders out-gained the Giants in first downs (18 to 15), total net yards (401 to 265), net yards rushing (119 to 65), and net yards passing (282 to 200). The Giants were hurt by two turnovers, fumbles by Geno Smith, in Raiders’ territory.

New York went three-and-out on its first three offensive possessions of the game. The Raiders took an early 7-0 lead on their first possession when running back Marshawn Lynch carried the ball three times in a row for 60 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown gallop. The Giants’ defense then settled down and forced two three-and-outs by the Raiders.

The Giants tied the game on their fourth possession. New York drove 74 yards in 11 plays, the big play being a 29-yard pass from Smith to tight end Evan Engram. A few plays later, running back Orleans Darkwa scored from one yard out.

The Giants got the ball back when the defense stuffed Lynch on 4th-and-1 at the New York 45-yard line. However, the Giants gave the ball right back when Smith was sacked on 3rd-and-5 from the Oakland 29-yard line. Smith fumbled on the play and the Raiders recovered. Oakland then drove 47 yards in 12 plays to set up a 39-yard field goal that gave the Raiders a 10-7 lead with 3:37 left to go before the half.

The Giants went three-and-out for the fourth time of the game, but a 69-yard punt by Brad Wing pinned the Raiders on their 1-yard line. After picking up one first down, the Raiders were set to punt but fullback Shane Smith smothered the punter for an 11-yard loss at the Oakland 9-yard line with 46 seconds left on the clock. New York got zero points out of this as Geno Smith was sacked on 2nd-and-goal from the 4-yard line, fumbling in the process and turning the ball over at the Oakland 11-yard line.

At the half, the Raiders led 10-7.

Neither team scored in the third quarter. The Raiders’ first three drives resulted in two punts and a fumble (cornerback Brandon Dixon forced a fumble that safety Landon Collins recovered at the Giants’ 27-yard line). The Giants likewise punted three times in a row.

The Raiders went up 17-7 early in the fourth quarter after an 8-play, 79-yard drive. The Giants impressively responded with a 9-play, 88-yard effort that included a 47-yard catch-and-run from by wide receiver Sterling Shepard and then a 10-yard touchdown reception by Engram. The defense could not hold however, and the Raiders quickly went up again by 10 points when they drove 68 yards in four plays, with the big play being a 59-yard pass to start the possession.

To the Giants’ credit, they did make the game a one-score contest again by driving 46 yards in nine plays to set up a 52-yard field goal by Alrick Rosas with 1:38 to play. Engram made a superlative one-handed catch for 22 yards on this possession. However, the Raiders recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

Geno Smith finished the game a respectable 21-of-34 for 212 yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions. However, he did fumble the ball away twice in Raiders’ territory. Engram led the Giants in pass receptions with seven for 99 yards and a touchdown. New York struggled to run the ball as Darkwa was held to 32 yards on 14 carries.

Defensively, the Giants only had one sack by linebacker Calvin Munson. The only turnover was the fumble recovery by Collins.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck/wrist), cornerback Eli Apple (hip), quarterback Davis Webb, wide receiver Travis Rudolph, defensive tackle Khyri Thornton, and linebacker Jeremy Cash.

Running back Wayne Gallman (hip), offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (concussion), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), and safety Nat Berhe (concussion) all left the game with injuries.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available at Giants.com:

ARCHIE – ELI MANNING MAY RETIRE…
The father of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Archie Manning, told NFL.com that his son may retire from the NFL after the end of the current season. Eli was benched by the Giants this past week.

“It just flat broke his heart,” said Archie Manning. “There’s no sense speculating (on his future). If he’s still there, we don’t know what their future plans are, if other people are there. And you have no idea what other teams will think of a 37-year-old quarterback. You don’t have any idea. Eli might say, ‘I’ve had enough. I’m feeling good. I’ve got a beautiful wife, three little girls, I’m healthy. And that’s it.’ So there’s no sense speculating.

“We had our team, we loved our team. But for Eli… it’s always kind of been like this: Eli’s passion for the Giants goes deeper than most and I’ve mentioned it through the years. Eli loves playing for the New York Giants. He just does. He just loves it, I think more than most. So therefore, it broke his heart.”

However, after today’s game, Eli said he plans on playing in the NFL in 2018.

REPORT – GIANTS NOT TALKING TO THEIR OWN SOON-TO-BE FREE AGENTS…
ESPN is reporting that the New York Giants have not held any contract discussions with soon-to-be free agents such as guard/tackle Justin Pugh, center Weston Richburg, and linebacker Devon Kennard. According to ESPN, players on the team “welcome the opportunity leave what has devolved into a depressing and dysfunctional situation.”

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Ben McAdoo and select players will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Dec 012017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Oakland Raiders, December 3, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The Eli Manning era began on November 21, 2004 with a 10-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It ended on Thanksgiving night on November 23, 2017 with a 10-20 loss to the Washington Redskins. In between came 210 consecutive starts (second most in NFL history), four Pro Bowls, an 8-4 playoff record, two miraculous playoff runs, two Super Bowl MVP awards, and – most importantly – two Super Bowl trophies. In the end, Eli will be leaving the Giants owning just about every meaningful record a quarterback can hold for the 93-year old franchise, including over 50,000 yards passing and 334 touchdown passes. There were also 40 game-winning 4th-quarter drives in the regular and post-season.

This transition was inevitable. Father time waits for no one. And unless there was going to be a Michael Strahan-like Cinderella finish with Eli walking away on his own terms with a third Super Bowl trophy, the ending was always going to be less than ideal.

It is important to remember where the Giants were in April 2004. Since the departure of Bill Parcells early in 1991, the franchise had been adrift. While the team teased with an unanticipated Super Bowl appearance in 2000, the New York Giants appeared to be treading water as they just fired their third coach in a row after a disastrous 2003 season. The conservative Giants stunned the NFL that April doing something they never do – they traded away two #1 picks for the goofy kid from the University of Mississippi. At the time, it smelled like a desperate roll of the dice. And the early returns were not good. During his rookie season, the quarterback with the permanently-boyish face actually finished a game with a 0.0 quarterback rating. Manning may have hit rock bottom in November 2007 after a 4-interception, 3-pick-6 game against the Minnesota Vikings. Fans rapidly became annoyed with the lack of visible emotion and the shoulder shrugs after each bad play. The Giants appeared to have made a huge mistake.

Then came the still-unreal playoff run in 2007. And the second one in 2011. 8-0, beating the NFC’s #1 and #2 seeds on their respective home turfs. Twice. And beating the unbeatable AFC #1 seed Patriots. Twice. And wrecking the inevitable “perfect season” in the process. In each of those runs, Manning was THE key figure. He became a new quarterback in January 2008 when he efficiently sliced his way through an outstanding Tampa Bay defense. A week later he calmly changed the complexion of the entire game by marching the Giants down the field with pinpoint passing for a touchdown right before halftime in Dallas. Then came perhaps his best game, the -24 degree wind chill, NFC Championship in Green Bay where he clearly out-dueled legendary Brett Favre. Two memorable 4th quarter touchdown drives against Bill Belichick’s defense, including what NFL Films guru Steve Sabol labeled as the “greatest play in NFL history” resulted in Super Bowl trophy #1 and perhaps the greatest upset in sports history next to the “Miracle on Ice.” Eli had pulled it off. He had done it. And we caught a rare glimpse of emotion from him as he fought to hold back the tears.

The Giants were even stronger in 2008 but injuries and the Plaxico Burress shooting incident sabotaged what could have been another run. Then in 2011, Eli had his career-season. Encumbered with a bottom-ranked defense and running game, and a once-venerable offensive line that was eroding fast, Manning literally carried the team to the playoffs with six 4th-quarter regular-season comeback victories, and then two more in the post-season. He blew the game open late against the Falcons. He out-dueled the 15-1 Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. He was never tougher despite getting the crap kicked out of him against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. And his late-game beyond-perfect pass to Mario Manningham in the Super Bowl was the dagger that resulted in Super Bowl trophy #2.

In January 2011, Eli Manning was still only 31 years old. A young 31 who was coming off a league MVP-like season. He had an 8-3 record in 11 playoff games. In hindsight, that was the pinnacle of his career. While the reasons vary, his play noticeably declined in subsequent years with an ironic uptick in 2014-15 when Ben McAdoo became offensive coordinator. The overriding sense is that team management screwed the pooch by not surrounding Eli with enough talent on offense, defense, and special teams from 2012-2017. Six years wasted. An offensive line in permanent shambles. A finesse offense that couldn’t pick up an inch in short-yardage. Last-place defenses that couldn’t hold a 4th-quarter lead. Inevitable and catastrophic special teams breakdowns. An injury-plagued and riddled roster year after year. Bad coaching hires, particularly on defense – remember Bill Sheridan and Perry Fewell? When all is said and done, Eli only played in 12 playoff games.

Quarterback is the most important position on every NFL team. And the Giants have been 41-50 in the regular season since their last Super Bowl. Eli has been a victim of his team’s roster, but he also hasn’t played like a $20+ million per season quarterback. Perhaps the same inner passion and hunger has dissipated with success and time. He has a family now and priorities become different. Perhaps the skills have eroded enough to make subtle but meaningful difference. But 2011 is long gone and Eli can no longer carry a team.

Let’s go back to April 2004 again. If you were asked at the time if you would give up two #1 picks for a quarterback who would pass for 50,000 yards in his career and win two Super Bowls, you would gladly accept that in a heartbeat. Regardless of how it began or ended, Eli Manning’s career was a tremendous success. He IS the most successful quarterback in team history. And in an era of douchebag assholes permeating the league, he was a class act through and through. New York Giants fans are PROUD that he was our quarterback.

*********************

The most alarming aspect of this week was not that Eli Manning was benched, but how the transition was handled. Geno Smith is not the future of this team. It’s either Davis Webb or a yet-to-be-drafted quarterback. The Giants season ended in September. In October, Davis Webb should have been bumped up to the #2 spot. Not in case Eli got hurt, but simply to give Webb the extremely limited #2 quarterback practice snaps. Webb isn’t ready to play. He hardly had any snaps in training camp, barely played in the preseason, and has hardly thrown the ball in practice since the season started. When and if he plays late this year, it won’t be pretty. Success comes with preparation and Webb has had none. And now fans in a foul mood are ready to jump on him when he struggles.

Beyond that, the optics of Eli’s benching are horrific. John Mara spoke to Eli after the announcement, not before. You don’t do that. Not to the face of the franchise for the past 14 years (or 15 percent of its entire 93-year history). If Mara had previous commitments, you cancel them. Or you postpone this move. And you don’t have Eli answer questions in the locker room with a bunch of clueless fucking teammates yucking it up in the background while he is struggling to fight back the tears. You hold a press conference. In the proper setting. With the owner, general manager, and coach explaining what hopefully is the real reason for this move – to get Webb some late season snaps. Because if this is about Geno Smith, and Geno Smith plays every snap in the five final games, then Giants’ ownership/management may be beyond redemption.

Ben McAdoo (aka Ray Handley 2.0) lost his job when San Francisco embarrassed the Giants. If you don’t think Mara is stupid, then this reeks of Mara throwing McAdoo further under the bus to justify his firing. (Which he really didn’t need to do given how the fan base already feels about the coaching staff). Perhaps this is a set up for a complete house-cleaning. We’ll see. But I don’t trust Mara’s public statements. And the competency of ownership/management and the team structure that has existed since 1979 is now very much in question as the Giants have rapidly turned into the Cleveland Browns. (Keep in mind, these guys hired Ben McAdoo in the first place).

The best general manager the Giants have ever had was the 1980’s edition of George Young, who unfortunately was at a loss in dealing with the salary cap and the new NFL in the 1990’s. Ernie Accorsi, his hand-picked successor, was not the same caliber. But he clearly was a better GM than Jerry Reese, who doesn’t seem to understand how to put together an offensive line or linebacking corps. In hindsight, what we’ve learned is how important Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning were to the franchise in their respective primes. As various parts came and went, they held this mess together and somehow willed the team to two more NFL titles.

As Matt in SGS has adeptly pointed out, what this move does do is clear the way for the new coaching staff in 2018. The new coach won’t have to deal with the public relations nightmare of being the one who dumped Eli Manning. He’ll get to start from scratch. By botching this so badly, the Giants have most likely burned any bridge that Manning could come back in 2018 under a new regime. And the Machiavellian in me thinks that may have been intentional. The only way I see Eli sticking around is if the Giants hire a coach with an exceptionally strong persona who demands that Eli return to mentor the new QB for one more year. But that’s not likely.

So if this is it, Eli, we thank you. You never complained. You never threw anyone under the bus. You worked your tail off each and every year, organizing unofficial passing camps, conducting private post-practice film sessions. There was never any visible ego involved in your game, no “look at me” narcissism. While we wish you had more on-the-field success, the highs were so high that expecting and wanting more may have been too greedy on our part. Decades from now, fans will look back in wonderment at the two playoff runs, shake their heads, and just say, “Wow!”