Eli Manning, game manager? Giants need more from their quarterback

Eli Manning after Sunday's pick six against the Oakland Raiders - Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Have the Giants begun asking Eli Manning to simply 'manage' games?

Eli Manning, game manager? The notion that the New York Giants have turned their struggling two-time Super Bowl MVP into just that is being bandied about in several places on Monday?

Game manager? That's really an ugly thing to call a quarterback. Basically, your quarterback is a game manager if the primary instruction he gets is 'don't screw the game up. Just don't do anything incredibly stupid, let our defense and running game win it.'

You can easily make an argument that the Giants have 'managed' their should-be superstar quarterback during their three-game winning streak.

This was never more obvious than it was on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. While the defense was blanketing a Raiders' offense which had no hope of scoring unless the Giants basically gifted them easy opportunities -- and we know they did -- and the running game was percolating, the Giants did little via the air.

Manning went only 12-of-22 for 140 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Ah, that interception. Tracy Porter of Oakland turned it into a 43-yard pick six, a ball intended receiver Victor Cruz never expected to have come his way.

That pick came with only 1:18 left in the first half and Tom Coughlin did not respond the way he usually does, by aggressively turning Manning loose and trying to get the points back. He responded by running out the clock, with Coughlin admitting he "decided to re-group."

Manning then threw only nine passes in the second half, basically watching Andre Brown and the defense win the game.

The change goes beyond the number of throws. The Giants are throwing the ball shorter and taking less risks, a good idea after Manning tossed 15 interception in the first six weeks.

In the Giants' three victories Manning averaged 5.1 yards per pass attempt vs. Minnesota, and 6.3 in each of the past two weeks against Philadelphia and Oakland. in three of the Giants' six losses they averaged more than 9 yards per attempt. Some of that is due, obviously, to playing from behind. It has been obvious, however, that the deeper, riskier throws that have been a staple of Kevin Gilbride's offense for years have not been as prevalent. Against Oakland on Sunday Manning attempted only two passes longer than 20 yards, and 14 of his 22 attempts were on throws shorter than 10 yards.

Here is another way to look at it:

Part of the reason for the simpler, more conservative offense has to be that Manning this season simply hasn't been the guy we are accustomed to. Anyone who follows the Giants long ago should have made peace with the idea that Manning will never be a single-digit interception, 70 percent plus completion percentage, 100+ passer rating quarterback. He has always, however, been a guy who would get the Giants into the right play, who could hit the big play and who -- when the Giants needed plays to be made -- could step up and make them.

For whatever reason, that guy hasn't been around in 2013. His passer rating and completion percentage are near the bottom of the league. His 16 interceptions are still the most of any quarterback in the league.

There are other reasons, too. The offensive line is not the sieve it was during the early part of the season, but it's hardly anything to write home about, either. Manning got hit eight times in 25 drop backs, and it's clear he isn't entirely sure he isn't going to get creamed when he drops back. It's also clear he and his receivers still haven't ironed out their differences. So shorter, simpler, quicker throws with fewer options are the better way to go.

This approach has been fine against awful teams led by the quarterback dregs of the world. Josh Freeman and the Minnesota Vikings. An injured Michael Vick and an inept Matt Barkley of the Philadelphia Eagles. An injured and woefully inaccurate Terrelle Pryor and the Oakland Raiders. It could well be good enough again the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at MetLife Stadium since the Packers will start third-stringer Scott Tolzien.

It won't be enough, however, for the Giants to do what they want to do -- to become the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs after starting a season 0-6. The guys around Manning have breathed life into the Giants' season, winning three straight to put the Giants within striking distance while Manning and his offense "figure out some things."

To complete this improbable rise from the football dead the Giants will need Manning to rediscover his assassin's touch. The Giants are learning that they can play defense, and beginning to find ways to run the ball. They won't shoot down Tony Romo and the Cowboys, Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins (twice), Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions or Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers -- all looming over the next seven weeks -- unless Manning finds the magic again.

Simply put, the Giants won't manage without some of it.


Passing
G Rating Comp Att Pct Yds Y/G Y/A TD INT
2013 - Eli Manning 9 68.5 183 329 55.6 2307 256.3 7 11 16

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