Fennelly: What’s Going On With Eli Manning?

If you listen to Eli Manning, everything will be alright. Don’t worry. The offense will get better and the Giants’ ship will be righted. We believe him because he is as honest a guy as there is in this world.

But our eyes tell us a different story. We see a Manning in decline, barely functioning in what has become a dysfunctional offense. The Giants haven’t been able to establish their running game all season and now they aren’t passing the football that well, either.

Manning has not resembled himself in quite some time. That brash gunslinger who whipped the football all over the field is no longer in residence. Instead, the Eli we’re being served is a dink-and-dunker who gets rid of the football at any sign of danger. He is quick to give up on plays and is prone to trying to force the football into tight spots.

That is mainly due to an offensive line that has underperformed as a unit. The run blocking is non-existent and the pass blocking has become so inconsistent that Manning has lost faith in the line. He gets rid of the football practically right away to fend off pass rushers. This naturally shortens the passing route tree and virtually eliminates the deep pass.

That doesn’t explain his fading performance in full. The proof can partially be found in the stats. Manning threw for 300 yards or better in three of the Giants’ first six games. He hasn’t even come close to a 300-yard game since. In fact, he has thrown for under 200 yards in four of the Giants’ last seven games.

Since returning from the bye week in late October, Eli has been very ordinary. He has 15 TD passes against seven INTs a completion rate of 60% and a QB rating of 89.5. For a QB who has been throwing predominantly short passes, those numbers aren’t very impressive.

Granted, his receivers have been dropping passes on him. WR Odell Beckham, Jr. dropped a sure TD this week and WR Victor Cruz dropped one pass and allowed a DB to beat him to another for an INT.

But Eli fumbled the football twice in the Giants’ 10-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. His turnovers did not cost the team in this game, but he knows he’s got to protect the rock better in the future.

“Obviously we’ve got to fix the turnovers,” he said. “The ball slipping out of my hand, I had the fumble and the sack, the interception; the guy jumped the curl, so we’ve got to clean up those plays. We can’t afford to turn the ball over, especially some of those when we’re down that prevented us from scoring some points.”

By we, he should just say, “he”. According to Pro Football Focus, Manning had a terrible game vs the Cowboys and his poor output is becoming the the norm rather than the exception.

“There aren’t too many ways to put it: Eli Manning was flat out bad on Sunday night. In the first half, he had two fumbles that were recovered by the Cowboys, flipping critical field position. The first fumble slipped out of his hand while throwing and ended a drive that had the Giants just outside of the red zone; his second came as New York was just outside of field-goal range. Manning also had two fortunate incompletions that were dropped by Barry Church, but was not so lucky in the fourth quarter when he threw into tight coverage and Anthony Brown made a great jump on the ball and picked it off. Manning threw another dangerous pass on a slant intended for Sterling Shepard; the QB threw blindly down the middle after turning his back to the coverage. Manning, on the night, had six turnover-worthy plays, which is why he graded out so poorly despite the outcome.”

Head coach Ben McAdoo has to be worried about his QB’s future and more importantly, his immediate future. Manning is signed through 2019, but the fans and the club just need him to carry them into the postseason and beyond. If McAdoo was concerned, he didn’t display that on his Monday conference call with reporters.

“I think it was a gritty performance,” McAdoo said of Eli’s night. “He hung in there and took some shots early in the ball game. We need to take better care of the football.”

The subject of inconsistency was broached but McAdoo, an old hand already at 39, didn’t take the bait. He’s not about to publicly criticize his franchise QB.

“When things go well, the quarterback gets a lot of credit,” he said. “When things don’t, the quarterback gets a lot of the blame. Right now, things aren’t going very well on offense. We’re having consistency issues. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s the whole way around. We have to keep working at it and find a way to get that out of our system. Find a way to eliminate the unforced turnovers.”

Still, we are clamoring for the vertical offense that made Eli a folk hero earlier in his career. Are those days done? If so, what do we need him for? We can just do what Dallas did and draft a QB in the fourth round and ask him not to give the game away.

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