Game Preview: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 9, 2019
It’s easy to become disillusioned with the New York Giants right now. As fans of a sport with a long offseason, we look forward to each new season with great anticipation. But because each of the last three seasons has been effectively over by October, fans who once anxiously pined for the season to start now can’t wait until it’s over. Strange and sad.
When Eli Manning was benched after Week 2, I wondered if we would ever hear from him in an official capacity as a New York Giant again. With him as the #2 QB, there would be no reason for Pat Hanlon to designate him as one of the players to address the media during the week. There would be no reason to do a post-game interview. And a January presser for a player not retiring and headed towards free agency may not have been likely. In other words, I’m not sure Giants fans fully realized that they may have seen and heard the last of Eli as a member of the team. There would be no official send-off or goodbye.
Regardless of your feelings about the state of team management and the coaching staff, the decision to bench Eli was the correct one. Manning and the Giants were 0-2 at the time. It was quickly becoming clear that the same issues with the defense and on the offense line were not going to allow the team to compete in 2019. Playing Manning, who would not be with the team in 2020, and sitting the #6 player selected in the draft made no sense. With each mounting loss, much fan venom was being targeted at Manning. For once, the Giants didn’t wait too long and expeditiously made the right move. They moved onto Daniel Jones.
Jones won his first two games. The Giants evened their record at 2-2. Giants fans were in a great mood. But the defense continued to remain one of the worst in the league. The offensive line was not opening holes in the ground game and, like Manning, Jones was afforded little time to throw the ball and was getting hit far too much. Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Golden Tate all missed time. The Giants went winless in their next eight games (literally half the season). Almost too predictably, Jones got hurt in the last game. It’s currently unknown if he will play again this season.
Analytically speaking, Jones missing 1-4 of the season’s remaining games is not good. The more he plays, the better prepared he will be for 2020. But in a twist of fate, Giants fans have now been presented with a second chance to fully understand they are really saying good-bye to Eli Manning. Perhaps for just one more game, but no more than four in total. When Eli Manning walked off of the field against the Buffalo Bills on September 15th (game pictured above), none of us knew at the time that was likely his last game as a New York Giant. Now we know.
Regardless of how you feel about Eli Manning, he is the franchise’s greatest quarterback. He holds every major team record. It’s not even close. He’s thrown for 22,000 more yards and 163 more touchdowns than Phil Simms. Charlie Conerly, Kerry Collins, Fran Tarkenton, and Y.A. Tittle pale in comparison. Most importantly, Manning was 8-4 in the playoffs, and responsible for one-quarter of the franchise’s eight NFL titles.
The rub with Eli’s career is if you take away his two 4-0 playoff runs, other than longevity which led to stat accumulation, his career doesn’t seem very impressive. But… but… but… you CAN’T take away those two playoff runs. He played an incredibly efficient game against the #1 defense in the NFL in Tampa Bay with two TDs and a 117.1 QBR rating. His 46-second TD drive before halftime against Dallas completely changed the game around. The greatest game of his career may have been his performance in -23 degree temperatures in the NFC Championship. He drove the Giants to two 4th-quarter, Super Bowl touchdowns against what was regarded as the best team and coach in NFL history and was on the front end of a play that is widely regarded as the greatest play in the history of the game. During the 2007 playoffs, Manning ended up 72-of-119 (60.5 percent) for 854 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. And he was awarded his first Super Bowl MVP trophy. Who wasn’t? Tony Romo, Brett Favre, and Tom Brady.
Fast forward four years. The only reason the Giants were in the playoffs that season was Eli Manning. The Giants had no defense or ground game that year until the playoff run. In his greatest season of his career, six of the team’s nine regular-season wins were 4th-quarter comeback wins. With the season on the line, Manning swept the Cowboys in the last month. Two more 4th-quarter comebacks came in the playoffs. That’s eight of the team’s 13 wins. Against the Falcons, Manning threw three touchdowns and finished with a 129.3 QBR. He then threw three more touchdowns, and had a 114.5 QBR, out-dueling league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the 15-1 Packers. Most quarterbacks would have folded with the beating he took in the NFC Championship Game, and his 17-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-15 to Mario Manningham was one of the greatest throws of his career. Perhaps his greatest throw came in the very next game, again with Manningham being the target. With the Giants trailing the Patriots late in the 4th quarter, Manning threw one of the greatest pinpoint passes in the history of the game in the tensest of situations, moving the ball from their own 12 to midfield. Eli finished the 2011 playoffs 106-of-163 (65 percent) for 1,219 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. And he was awarded his second Super Bowl MVP trophy. Wearing sad faces were Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, and Tom Brady again.
If there was a Mount Rushmore of New York Giants, Eli Manning would be on it. And if you told any Giants fan in April 2004 that Manning would go onto win two Super Bowls, they would have danced up and down with glee. Beyond that, he’s been the model teammate and citizen on and off of the field. Whether or not you think he is overrated, or if you believe the franchise botched the second half of his career by not surrounding him with even an average team, do not lose sight of the fact that he is a New York Giants legend.
Win or lose on Monday night, you are about to see him play for the New York Giants for possibly the last time. Appreciate the moment.
THE INJURY REPORT
- QB Daniel Jones (ankle – out)
- WR Golden Tate (concussion)
- TE Evan Engram (foot – out)
- TE Rhett Ellison (concussion – out)
- LT Nate Solder (ankle)
- LB Chris Peace (knee – out/Injured Reserve)
- CB Corey Ballentine (concussion – out)
- S Jabrill Peppers (back – out/Injured Reserve)
THE FINAL WORD
Thank you Eli. We’re proud of you.