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Position review: How much blame for 2016 should Giants’ QB Eli Manning get?

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Was Eli the reason the offense fell short, or were there other factors?

New York Giants v Washington Redskins
Eli Manning
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Sunday’s Conference Championship games feature three almost certain Hall of Fame quarterbacks who already have Super Bowl rings — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers — and a fourth, Matt Ryan, who could be the NFL MVP for 2016.

With that as a backdrop it seems fitting that today we discuss the quarterback situation for the New York Giants in the final installment of our position-by-position look at the team entering the 2017 offseason.

So, sharpen your daggers if you are a hater and put up your shields if you are a supporter. We are about to talk about Eli Manning.

2016 season

Anyone who watched know the Giants’ offense wasn’t good enough in 2016, and that there was plenty of blame to go around. The offensive tackles weren’t very good. The tight ends didn’t give the Giants much, blocking or receiving. The rushing attack was among the league’s worst. Pass-catching back Shane Vereen played in only five of 17 games. The play-calling and scheme were too predictable.

How much blame, though, goes to Manning? Some, undoubtedly. When an offense, fails the arrow of blame always shoots directly at the quarterback.

There were missed throws by Manning during the season. Opportunities lost because the ball was off-target. There were bad decisions at unfortunate times, like the one in the end zone against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After 13 years, though, those things shouldn’t have been a surprise. For all the wonderful things Manning has done, there have always been — and will always be — those moments.

There were times when Manning looked to be more concerned about getting rid of the ball quickly than surveying his options and finding the best throw. Was he coached to do that? Was he simply in self-preservation mode, knowing that Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart weren’t going to hold up very long in pass protection? Maybe a little of both.

Manning’s numbers were, for the most part, down from 2015. But just slightly. And not really all that different from his career averages.

Eli Manning By The Numbers

Passing Att Cmp Yds Cmp% Yds/Att TD TD% Int Int% Rating
Passing Att Cmp Yds Cmp% Yds/Att TD TD% Int Int% Rating
2016 598 377 4027 63.00% 6.7 26 4.30% 16 2.70% 86
2015 618 387 4432 62.60% 7.2 35 5.70% 14 2.30% 93.6
Career 59.70% 7.1 4.70% 3.20% 83.7

Were there signs of slippage last season? That’s an easy thing to say because Manning was 35, in his 13th year, and his numbers were down. It’s a much harder thing to prove. Coach Ben McAdoo was adamant near the end of the season that Manning’s movement skills in the pocket were better than ever in 2016, and that his arm strength was the best it had been in the three years McAdoo has been with the Giants.

In my view, Manning was the same player he has always been. Inconsistent and maddening at times, but also capable of brilliance. There were fewer brilliant moments in 2016, but there were also problems everywhere around him on the offensive side of the ball.

Without doubt, 2016 was not Manning’s best year. It did not, however, lead me to believe he can’t still play at a high enough level for the Giants to be a good offense.

2017 free agents

Josh Johnson (Unresticted)
Ryan Nassib (Unrestricted)

Offseason decisions to make

How aggressive will the organization be in identifying/acquiring a successor to Manning? I will delve more into that in the next section.

The other decision is whether or not to bring back Johnson or Nassib as a veteran backup to Manning. My guess is that Johnson has a better chance to be back than Nassib. After never getting a chance in four years behind Manning, Nassib will likely try to find a place where he at least has the illusion of a chance to compete for playing time.

Draft/FA priority level

Medium.

General manager Jerry Reese has acknowledged the obvious — that it is time for the Giants to begin planning for a future without Manning. Here is what Reese said at his season-ending press conference:

“We always think about every position. But Eli is 36, and we have started to think about who is the next quarterback, and who is in line, so we will look into that as we move into the offseason.”

What Reese DID NOT SAY is that it is time to panic, use a first-round pick on a replacement for the two-time Super Bowl MVP, and have a new quarterback at the ready the first time Manning throws a wobbly pass next season.

He said that precisely because it is not time for the Giants to panic. Here is what I have written previously:

“ ... it isn’t imperative that the Giants find that successor this offseason. It is imperative that they begin looking for a guy they think can lead the franchise once Manning is gone, and that they make a move when they believe they have identified the right quarterback.”

This is the approach I believe is the right one, and the one all signs point to the Giants taking. Use free agency and their early-round draft picks to add as many players as they can who should help the Giants quickly, who should give them the best chance to win during the couple of seasons Manning has left. If you find a guy in the middle of the draft you believe has a chance to be the next Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson, grab him and develop him. If not, wait.

Manning will be the Giants’ quarterback in 2017. In my view, using a first-round pick on a guy who will sit behind him for a couple of years rather than selecting a player who could maximize his remaining time would be a mistake.