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NFL Execs: Eli Manning placed in Tier 3 among quarterbacks

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Does he really belong there?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has released its annual quarterback rankings (insider content). They arrive at their rankings, dividing the league’s 32 quarterbacks into tiers, by polling 50 NFL front office executives. According to ESPN’s Mike Sando, this year’s executive pool consists of “10 general managers, five head coaches, 10 coordinators, 10 senior personnel executives, five QB coaches and 10 others with job titles ranging from assistant coach to salary-cap manager to analytics director.”

Last year, after the New York Giants finally returned to the playoffs, the executives polled by ESPN had Eli Manning at 11th. When it came to Manning this year, those 50 NFL executives placed him in the third tier, tied at 17th with Dak Prescott. This is what they had to say about the Giants’ signal caller:

Manning’s average vote declined by six-tenths of a tier, the largest decline for any returning starter. There was some optimism that new coach Pat Shurmur, healthier skill players and new running back Saquon Barkley could be a good combination for Manning.

”My gut tells me he is going to end his career strong, but he is a 3 right now,” a GM said. “I think with Barkley helping him now and the tight end with those receivers, I have a funny feeling he will be like his brother, play another three years, play well and ride out.”

The knocks on Manning were that he could no longer move and had become so conscious of being hit that he was looking for a spot to sit down. That is not a good combination for anyone, and particularly not for a player whose accuracy has been inconsistent.

”Shurmur helps him the same way he helped Keenum,” a personnel director said. “He finds favorable matchups. With the weapons that they have in New York, I think he is going to be really good for Eli. Eli struggled because he kept getting hit, and he is scared of getting hit. I think maybe Shurmur will be able to get the ball out quicker and get it in the playmakers’ hands quicker.”

Raptor’s Thoughts: My initial thought with the Giants’ offense in general, and Eli Manning in particular, is that coaching matters.

(I’m starting to feel like I should get those two words trademarked, or at least put them in my sig for the comments section)

The last two seasons, Eli Manning has been trapped in the worst offensive scheme in the NFL. It was widely believed — hoped, really — that the departure of Tom Coughlin would take the cuffs off of Ben McAdoo and allow him to unleash the creativity he showed when he first arrived in New York in 2014. That as the head coach, McAdoo would go back to using tight ends in novel ways or plays like the play-action, fake jet sweep RB screen pass he broke out approximately twice a season under Coughlin.

Instead, he retreated into a shell. For two years McAdoo called an offense that worked against the Giants as much, if not more than, opposing defenses.

He installed a “check-down/touchdown” mentality that stressed completions for the sake of completions and seemed to actively coach Eli to not take chances or any hit that wasn’t absolutely necessary. The personnel groups and passing concepts were stagnant and predictable. The alignments constricted throwing windows and made it more difficult for players to get open. Blocking schemes that put sub-par offensive tackles on islands that would be tough for top-tier tackles to defend, and absolutely no commitment to the running game, even when it was working.

That Eli lands in the third tier as a middle of the road QB is honestly pretty good considering that he was clearly uncomfortable in a bad and injury-ravaged offense. As new BBV contributor Mark Schofield showed, Eli still has the ability to be the reason why his team wins — even if he occasionally has a bad play.

I happen to agree with the executives that think Eli will rebound in 2018. They hit the nail on the head that he is in a much better situation both personnel-wise and coaching-wise. Eli has more young talent around him than ever before in his career, and a coach that actively looks to coach to his players’ strengths and put them in position to succeed.

The comment that the last three seasons of Eli’s career could echo those of Peyton’s is a curious one. Peyton had a nerve issue that caused his already pedestrian arm strength to deteriorate badly, and by the end of his career he was little more than a passenger on the ride through the Super Bowl. However if he means that Eli could rebound to the point where he is using his football IQ to direct an explosive offense, as Peyton did in 2012, 2013, and 2014, then that isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.