We have arrived at a very special, important place in our player-by-player breakdown of the 90-man roster the New York Giants will bring to training camp at the Timex Performance Center later this month. Today we discuss quarterback Eli Manning, the most important of all Giants.
2012 Season In Review
Not Manning's best work, that is the simplest way to put it. His touchdown and interception numbers were roughly the same as they were in 2011, 29 TDs and 16 INTs in 2011 to 26 and 15 in 2012. His total yardage dropped by nearly 1,000 yards, however, his passing yards per game went from a career-best 308.3 to 246.8, his lowest average since 2008. There were four games where his quarterback rating dipped below 60.0, two of those below 50.0 with his worst game being a 13-for-25, two interception stinker with a passer rating of a putrid 38.9. His rating for the season was a pedestrian 87.2. His completion percentage (59.9 percent) was his first season below 60 percent since 2007.
After a season in which he led the Giants to the second Super Bowl title of his career, he performed in a way that once again had some people wondering exactly what to make of Manning.
Some of the issues can be explained by the injury-plagued season suffered by Hakeem Nicks, and the season-long effort by the Giants to find a consistent replacement for Mario Manningham.
The off-target throws and stubborn decisions, like throwing an ill-fated pass to Ramses Barden that backfired in an early-season loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, or foolishly challenging Asante Samuel of the Atlanta Falcons and getting picked off, setting the tone for a brutal 34-0 loss, are purely on Manning.
There were ups and downs like the three-week midseason stretch without a touchdown pass, a four-touchdown game against the New Orleans Saints and a five-touchdown effort in the season finale against the Eagles.
The Giants have talked ... and talked ... and talked this offseason about being more consistent. About finding ways not have so many peaks and valleys during the season and find themselves so often mystifyingly uncompetitive in some games.
That has to start with their quarterback.
When I was a guest recently on the 'Sports Buffet' host Rod Babers said he felt Manning had a "really low floor" but that his ceiling was as high as anyone's. I think that's an apt description. The question of why the floor can be so low for a quarterback with the pedigree and ability Manning possesses is one we may never answer. The fact is that for the Giants to be a more consistent football team Manning simply has to find a way for the 'Good Eli/Bad Eli' routine to be less of a storyline. When Manning falls to that floor he takes the Giants with him. The same is true when he bounds toward that incredibly high ceiling.
What do I think we will see from Manning in 2013? Well, he has alternated exceptional years with so-so ones in recent seasons. Based on that pattern this would shape up as an exceptional season for Manning. If Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz can stay healthy and happy, Rueben Randle develops the way the Giants think he will and Louis Murphy can provide an occasional big play Manning will have a plethora of play-making wide outs to get the ball to. Also, don't discount the possibility that Brandon Myers could turn out to be the best pass-catching tight end the Giants have had since Jeremy Shockey.
What the Giants -- and their fans -- would really like to see is 2013 be the beginning of a three- or four-year run where 'Bad Eli' gets shoveled so deep under some Meadowlands dirt that you forget he even exists.