Has the Giants’ coaching staff lost its faith in Eli Manning?
Following their 21-16 victory this weekend against the Chicago Bears, it may be hard to imagine that they’re considering taking the ball out of Manning’s hands.
But up until the 11-minute mark of the fourth quarter, that’s effectively what they did. The reasons for Coach Tom Coughlin’s lack of confidence were, once again, obvious: On the Giants’ very first drive, Manning picked up where he left off last week, attempting to force another pass down the middle of the field, resulting in an easy interception for Bears’ linebacker Brian Urlacher.
After that mistake, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride appeared to change tack from aggressive to ultraconservative, calling for plays designed to avoid mistakes. On three third downs in the first half, Manning either handed the ball off to Derrick Ward in the shotgun for a draw play or, in one case, on a third-and-18, threw a pass underneath to his running back Ward. On the drive that resulted in New York’s first touchdown, Manning wasn’t allowed to throw a single pass, with the Giants electing to stick with handoffs to Ward and Reuben Droughns.
But taking the quarterback out of the game, for this team, is no long-term strategy. While Derrick Ward and his 154 yards on the ground were what powered this win for the Giants, he isn’t good enough for the team to be depending on so heavily. (Witness the fumble in the second half that lead to a Bears field goal.) The offensive burden should be on Manning.
Manning played well enough at the end to put the Giants ahead. But on the fourth-quarter touchdown drive that carried the Giants to within two points of the Bears, Ward and Reuben Droughns ran six times, compared to three completed passes, and Manning missed an open David Tyree in the end zone. Even though the box score will reflect that he hit Amani Toomer for a six-yard touchdown, the pass was thrown at his feet, and the veteran wide receiver had to make a spectacular catch on his elbows to keep the ball off the turf. It took Manning’s teammates on the defensive side to keep the Giants from another heartbreaking loss.
The best thing going for Manning, in terms of his job security, is his backup. Jared Lorenzen isn’t a recent college graduate with a glowing resume being groomed for the starting job someday. If Coughlin pulls Manning at some point, it will be for temporary relief–and perhaps to send a message to his underperforming starter.
But maybe that’s not such a bad idea. Despite the win this week, maybe it’s time for Coughlin and his staff to think about going to Lorenzen, even just for a quarter, to try to spark something in Manning.
It’s hardly a comprehensive prescription for everything that’s wrong with the Manning-led offense. On the other hand, putting Manning out on the field and then rendering him impotent hardly seems like much of a plan, either.