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Giants vs. Bills: The value of QB wins and losses, and other things I’m thinking about

Eli Manning will be an even .500 (116-116) if the Giants lose on Sunday

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Here are a few things I’m thinking about on this fine September Sunday morning as the New York Giants get set to face the Buffalo Bills.

QB wins and losses

If the Giants lose on Sunday, Eli Manning will see his record as a starting quarterback in the NFL fall to an even .500, 116-116.

I think that what that makes me want to do is not necessarily open up a debate about Manning, all it takes to do that is to mention the man’s name, but really as to whether or not quarterbacks should be judged by their career regular season won-loss record. Should that even be a thing?

In baseball, analytics has taught us that a won-loss record is not the best judge of how good or bad a starting pitcher is. Domingo German has 18 wins this season for the New York Yankees. That’s tied for most in baseball. I don’t, however, know of anyone who thinks he is even close to being the best pitcher. He might only be the third- or fourth-best starting pitcher on his own team.

Anyway, I’m really just curious what people think here. Quarterback is the most important position in football, and probably the most impactful in all of sports. Yet, an NFL quarterback has 45 teammates on game day. So much goes on during a game that a quarterback has absolutely nothing to do with that I don’t really buy the argument that a quarterback is to blame if his team is bad, or responsible if his team is good.

I think you can make an argument that quarterback play is the deciding factor in some games, but not all.

There was nothing, for example, Manning was going to do to win last Sunday’s game in Dallas. We have argued about a play or two the quarterback didn’t make, but those weren’t going to change the outcome. The Cowboys scored 35 points and could have scored 50 or more had they needed to.

Manning’s won-loss record, to me, is a reflection of the overall caliber of the teams he has played on. He hasn’t, in any way shape or form, been responsible for 116 career victories. Or for 115 career losses. He’s been part of them. How many of them could he have changed, for better or worse? Probably just a small percentage of them.

There really is no database in football equivalent to “wins above replacement” in baseball or even the +/- used in basketball or hockey. Maybe the closest thing is the DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) used by Football Outsiders. For what it’s worth, Manning has been at or above replacement level per FO’s DYAR calculation in each of the past five seasons. He was way below replacement (335 yards) in 2013 and way above it (735 yards) in 2012.

What, if anything, that truly means is up to you to decide.

This isn’t meant to be a defense of Manning. It’s not meant to be an indictment, either. I’m seriously just aiming to open a discussion about the value or lack thereof in attaching a regular season won-loss record to a quarterback.

About Corey Ballentine

I think we all got excited by some of the splash plays we saw sixth-round pick Corey Ballentine make during training camp and the preseason. After what he went through with the death of his friend Dwane Simmons in a draft night shooting tragedy and how he has handled it, he’s an easy young man to root for.

I think, though, that the Giants don’t quite see Ballentine the same way fans — and perhaps the media — do. Ballentine played only nine snaps a week ago while Antonio Hamilton, known as a special teams player, got 36.

“He’s growing and improving, he’s certainly putting himself, by daily work, to be in a position to compete for that spot [opposite Janoris Jenkins],” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said this week.

I think the Giants see a kid with a ton of potential, but one who played college ball at a Division II school, has a lot to learn, is still a bit wide-eyed at the trappings of the NFL and still has a lot on his plate as the legal proceedings from the night Simmons was killed and Ballentine took a bullet in the butt are continuing.

I think I’m like many of you — I want to see the kid on the field more. The Giants, though, seem to want to go slowly with him.

This is the one Bills’ player I would love to have

When I do the “5 questions” with a writer from the opposing team each week my go-to question is always some variation of “which Giants player would you like to put into your team’s starting lineup?”

I think that if you flipped that question around this week there is zero doubt I would take linebacker Tremaine Edmunds away from the Bills and plug him into the Giants’ defense.

Check out this Baldy’s Breakdown on Edmunds from last season.

Here’s an Edmunds highlight reel:

How much would it help the Giants’ defense to have a guy like this patrolling the middle of the field? The really scary part with this kid? He’s barely 21 years old.

Paging Rhett Ellison

I think I would like to see the Giants go heavy “12” personnel (one running, two tight ends, two wide receivers) far more against the Bills than they did a week ago vs. the Dallas Cowboys.

Per Sharp Football Stats, the Giants used “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers), on 55 of 66 plays (83 percent) against Dallas. Ellison, considered the Giants’ second starting tight end along with Evan Engram, played only 22 snaps. The Giants ran only four plays (6 percent) vs. Dallas from “12” personnel.

A season ago, Ellison averaged 35 snaps per game and the Giants ran 24 percent of their offensive plays from “12” personnel.

With Sterling Shepard (concussion) joining Darius Slayton (hamstring) and Golden Tate (suspension) as being unavailable, and Cody Latimer (calf) possibly not playing the Giants could have just four healthy wide receivers.

That’s the biggest reason. Plus, I think about the “play your best players” mantra. In all honesty, I’d rather have Ellison on the field for more snaps than either Russell Shepard or the newly resigned T.J. Jones. That means more “12” personnel.

Pass rush problems

I think we have known for months that the pass rush was going to be a huge question mark for the Giants. So, no sacks and only two hits in 32 drop backs by Dak Prescott shouldn’t have been a huge surprise last Sunday. Dallas possesses a terrific offensive line.

I keep being asked where the pass rush is going to come from. I think the Giants are hoping and praying it comes from Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines and some well-executed blitzes. After listening to Pat Shurmur and James Bettcher during the week, though, I don’t think they have any real answers beyond that.

Shurmur: ‘We just have to get more of it.”

Bettcher: “... whether you pressure or you four-man rush, it comes down to winning one on ones. We have to do a better job of winning one on ones.”

Translation: The guys we have need to play better or we’re not going to have a pass rush.

I know there are still some who wish the Giants had taken Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen at No. 6. I think, though, the way things worked out the Giants would have run to the podium to take Florida State linebacker Brian Burns at No. 17 had the Carolina Panthers not snagged him one pick earlier. Burns has a sack and four quarterback hits in two games.

This is part of the building process. To get the guy they believe is their future franchise quarterback, they had to sacrifice getting the EDGE rusher they know they desperately need. For now, they will do the best they can. We’ll see if they can get that difference-making pass rusher next offseason.