The New York Giants are a very talented football team, with young, exciting players, poised to deliver. Eli Manning is single-handedly standing in their way.
To his credit, Manning maintains a legendary leadership quality. However, he continues to rest on poor habits and excuses that do more to damage his legacy and his team. Manning plays it safe. He believes in short passes. He prefers simple routes. He throws the ball low for shoestring catches. Nothing too 'out-there' or risky.
Eli is playing like a man who no longer trusts his own ability, laying his own hesitations on his teammates and, quite frankly, they are suffering for it.
Eli admits to preferring short-passing strategies. They are low-risk plays. They are also low-yardage-gaining plays, as a general rule. More significantly, short pass plays are tougher for receivers to get open on. Receivers run right into the densest defensive traffic zones and crisscross patterns in an attempt to get open. Guess what? They're covered.
The initial result is that Eli finds himself standing in the pocket longer - emphasis on standing - waiting for a safe pass opportunity. Meanwhile, the offensive line wears down trying to fend off a persistent rushing defense who, at this point, have had time to react to the pass. As the offensive line weakens, as any eventually will, the pocket shrinks. As the pocket shrinks, Eli remains standing there, as able-bodied, large men, close in on him.
Perhaps Manning is hoping that the 'do-not-put-your-full-weight-on-the-quarterback' rule will apply when he gets thrown to the ground for a Giant (pun intended) loss. It's truly baffling why he prefers the pocket to evading the rush and waits for the inevitable.
Another result of that scenario is a rushed pass, usually to Barkley, waiting by the sideline after blocking for the initial play that didn't happen. Barkley has moves and speed that can usually salvage several yards, often more, but it's a fallback play whose freshness will fade as it develops into a common rescue plot.
Some of Eli's passes target Odell Beckham Jr on short or sideline routes. Beckham makes a leaping catch five yards further down the field, then ducks, spins and cuts his way for a few more yards. It's a waste of talent. Beckham is a wide receiver. Let him go wide and far. And receive.
When Beckham or Barkley or Sherman or any of the other young talents are set free to play their game, exciting things happen. But it's as if Eli - or Shurmur, it's hard to tell - has the reigns on them. And the reason is mystifying.
Manning claims that long passes are risky, and when you aim for long gains, you leave yourself open to a greater likelihood of turnovers. That philosophy is helping Eli maintain a high pass completion percentage. Yet, he has already thrown 4 interceptions this year which puts him on track to mimic his 12 interception season total from last year. So, while he is playing it safe, the results are not improving for the team, only for his own personal passing stats. That's not to imply that Manning is selfish. He simply does not see the big picture. This is the NFL. These are big boys who know the game they've signed up for and love to play. And as for the 'safer' philosophy...? The Giants are 1 and 5. So, how's that working out for you?
Eli Manning is quarterbacking like an over-protective parent who cannot step back and just let his kids play.
Eli, let the kids play! Oh, and by the way... you can play, too.