New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning have been together since 2004. In that time I can rarely, if ever, recall Coughlin being directly critical of his quarterback.
Maybe it has something to do with having won two Super Bowls together, but after watching Manning play his second consecutive awful game on Sunday as the Giants were embarrassed by the Cincinnati Bengals, 31-13, Coughlin on Monday was more critical of Manning than I recall him being in the past.
Coughlin used words like "terrible" and "foolish" to describe the third-quarter decision-making by Manning that led to back-to-back interceptions, and said Manning is "pressing to try to make a play."
Manning's first interception came on a ball he tried to shuffle off to a receiver when he was being dragged down. The second came when he tried to find a receiver across the middle with a Cincinnati lineman hanging on him, and threw an ill-advised pass into traffic.
"That was terrible, he'd be the first one to tell you. That was so foolish to try to make a play there. Just go down, take care of the ball, let us have another snap," Coughlin said. "I know he's always trying to make a play, and he has done things under those circumstances in the past that have worked out, but the percentages are just not with you when that happens.
"I know how hard he's pressing to try to make a play. That's what he's doing, he's trying to make a play."
Manning has not thrown a touchdown pass in three games, and now has just one touchdown pass compared to six interceptions in his last four games.
Coughlin pointed out that when Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled inside the Cincinnati 20-yard line the Giants trailed only 17-6, and that the play began a sequence where they turned the ball over three times in four plays.
"We had opportunities, we just didn't take advantage of them," Coughlin said. "We're just not making anything happen for ourselves that we can build momentum on. We got 21 first downs, but we didn't get the big plays we were looking for."
Coughlin, of course, had to face questions Monday about what has become an unwelcome tradition for the Giants -- the November swoon.
"My standard answer for last year was it didn't turn out too bad. I'll stick with that," Coughlin said."Every year is a different, every situation is a different situation, every team is a different team."
That might be true, but every season the Giants seem to arrive at this point. A promising start, an awful stretch and now a spot where you wonder whether the season will go north or south.
We don't know at this point. We do know, however, that it won't go north unless the two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback stops playing like the kid who plays for your local high school JV team, and starts playing like the guy who led the Giants to a title a season ago.