I was at the game this past Sunday. The Giants fell to the Saints 18-33, bringing them to just 1-3 on the season. It’s early, but at this point our playoff chances are likely out the window. This certainly will be the case if the Giants can’t find a way to fix their offense.
The Giants fired their head coach from last year. Fired their general manager. Brought in a new offensive system. Drafted a big time running back. Brought in Nate Solder and drafted Will Hernandez. Reshuffled the offensive line. Paid Odell. Got healthy at receiver. But the result is still the same as it was last year. This offense simply can’t block, can’t move the ball, can’t get the ball down the field, and can’t score. It’s frustrating.
This was a pretty competitive game that wasn’t really ever out of reach for the Giants. There were multiple factors that went into the loss–penalties, lots of bad officiating, questionable coaching, etc. But still, the Giants defense generally held firm especially in the red zone, holding this Saints O entirely to field goals in the first half. The Giants had a nice TD drive early, but the offense went to sleep after that. The Giants wouldn’t score another point in the half, and the Saints kicked four field goals, bringing the score to 12-7 at halftime. The Giants were unable to get the offense moving in a meaningful way until it was too late. The Saints eventually scored their first TD of the day, bringing it to 19-7, and the Giants drove down the field, but ultimately stalled and had to settle for a field goal, cutting the deficit to just 19-10. That was crucial, as it kept it a two score game with just two minutes left in the third quarter. Furthermore, a Saints TD would essentially put the game out of reach. Sure enough, that’s what happened, and the Saints scored another TD to bring it to 26-10. That left the Giants needing two touchdowns and two 2 point conversions with under 7 minutes left in the game, as the Saints chewed up plenty of clock on that scoring drive.
At this point, it was looking like it was more or less over. Even with a score, you’re unlikely to convert the two point conversion, which would likely mean an onside kick attempt. But the Giants did make it interesting for a bit, as they were able to score and then convert the two point conversion. Rosas then did a great job on the kickoff, sailing the ball high and jusssttt short of the endzone. It caught the Saints napping as they were unable to field the ball cleanly, and the Giants were able to pin them deep in their own endzone. All of a sudden, the Giants had a chance. Get a stop here, force a punt, and be sure to have good field position. Maybe even force a safety with pressure or a penalty in the endzone.
But the hope was short lived. Brees, poised as ever, dropped back to pass from under center, bought time, and was able to connect down the field. Shortly after it was 3rd and 5 and the Giants fans were on their feet once again, but an incomplete pass was negated by a pass interference call on the Giants. That was more or less the game, as the Giants were out of time and timeouts, and Kamara would eventually take it to the house to put the Saints up 33-18.
But the fact of the matter is, this game still comes down to the Giants offense. They had plenty of opportunities to move the ball and were just unable to do so. You can’t expect to stop Brees (and Kamara) in the four minute drill. It’s just too unrealistic. Ultimately the Giants were in this game for most of the day, and they simply couldn’t make the plays necessary to put any points on the board. It’s a story that’s becoming all too familiar for Giants fans.
The Giants offense has been broken for quite some time now. The last time we scored 30 points in a game was week 17 of the 2015 season (it’s now 2018). (Strangely enough, this was also the last game of Tom Coughlin’s career as head coach for the Giants, so make of that what you will.) It’s actually pretty amazing that we made the playoffs in 2016 without ever scoring 30 points in a game… or that we had a coach that lasted almost two seasons and wasn’t able to put up 30 points in a game, but alas, here we are.
In an era where pretty much everyone around the NFL is literally breaking records for offense across the league, the Giants still can’t seem to put up more than 10 points in meaningful play. This Saints defense, and specifically their secondary, came in giving up big plays left and right–losing 40-48 to Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1 and just edging the Falcons 34-47 in Week 3. In those games, Fitz was 21/28, 417 Yards, and 4 TD (14.9 yards per attempt) and Ryan was 26/35, 347 Yards, 5 TD (9.9 yards per attempt). Eli in the loss was 31/41 for 255 yards and 1 TD, for just 6.2 yards per attempt. Pat Shurmur was already beginning to get testy with reporters after the game, and Odell Beckham is already starting to show signs of frustration (which never bodes well for the Giants).
This is a winning franchise in a big time market that really hasn’t been doing a lot of winning recently, and fans are getting sick of it. When you have a problem that’s been going on this long and there are no indications of it being corrected, pressure is going to start mounting awfully quick.
The Giants were in perfect position this past offseason to turn the page and start a new chapter on their franchise. They suffered through a 3-13 season, maybe the worst in Giants history, with a coach that proved himself to be about as incompetent as they come. A franchise that is largely aversive to change chose to clean shop of their general manager, coaches, and coordinators. And they also held the No 2 overall draft pick. That’s not something that’s easy to come by. With an aging Quarterback and a Quarterback heavy draft class, it would be the perfect opportunity to get their next franchise guy. After all, how often do you get the opportunity to go straight from one franchise guy to another? The Colts were in such a position when they had the No 1 overall pick in 2012 and chose to move on from Peyton Manning (one of the all time greats) to draft Andrew Luck. The Packers struck gold with the seamless transition to Aaron Rodgers, who may actually be better than his HOF predecessor, Brett Favre. And of course, we all know about Montana and Steve Young. But all in all, these are really hard situations to come by. The Giants haven’t had to worry about a Quarterback in over 10 years. To have the opportunity to be set for another decade? It seemed like a no brainer.
For Dave Gettleman, it was a no brainer. He refused to listen to any trade offers. He turned in his card as soon as he was allowed, saying that he would have turned it in in two seconds if they let him. This was a pivotal time for the Giants franchise. This move would shape their direction for years to come. The decision? …. Saquon Barkley, the running back out of Penn State.
When I heard Roger Goodell announce the pick live, I felt a wave of disappointment run over me that only seemed to get stronger as time went on. And I had rarely taken interest in the draft in the past. But with the stakes so high, this time was different. And I couldn’t help but feel that this was a tremendous missed opportunity for the Giants.
There were a few possible explanations for the choice, some offered by Gettleman after the pick, others by fans and analysts, that I simply don’t believe are correct. Those include, but are not limited to:
-Barkley was the best player in the draft.
-Barkley makes everyone on the roster better.
-There were no good Quarterbacks in this draft.
-Eli Manning has plenty of years left.
-The RB position is just as important now as it was decades ago.
-We shouldn’t draft a player who isn’t going to play right away.
I’m not going to get into all of these right now, but the point is that, ultimately, there’s really only one justifiable reason for drafting Barkley at No 2, and that’s that you believe the team is good enough to compete. You don’t take a weapon like that if you have no other pieces to build around him. You do it because you think you need that extra weapon that can push you over the top, and to bring a new dimension to an already talented roster. Because at the end of the day, Barkley’s not going to be around forever. The shelf life of running backs is pretty short. Barkley’s not a guy that needs to sit or learn the system. He’s a guy that was expected to come in and contribute right away.
My problem with this is that the Giants are clearly nowhere near ready to compete for a Super Bowl right now. Yea, they have some weapons on offense and an okay defense. But it’s still overall an average roster. The offensive line is still clearly weak, and that’s where it all starts. And while I don’t think Eli Manning is horrible or anything, he’s clearly nowhere near his anomalous 2011 level of play–a level that is probably needed to bring this roster to Super Bowl contention.
This is why you’re starting to see the frustration build up among Giants fandom and organization. I’ve seen a lot of comments from fans arguing that Eli is done and should be benched. Some people are saying that if the Giants don’t make the playoffs this year, then Gettleman will definitely draft a Quarterback next year.
You see the problem with that, right? If we’re replacing Eli Manning next year, what was the point of taking Barkley this year, and not using that rare no 2 overall pick on such a talented QB class? Pushing that decision to next year would just make this year a waste, and undermine Gettleman’s entire philosophy for his draft approach–and his franchise approach as well.
Barkley’s a good player, and I don’t think he’s necessarily hurting the offense. While it will continue to pain me for years that the Giants didn’t draft Josh Rosen, I’ve accepted, at least to some degree, that the offense consists of Barkley and Eli at this point. I don’t dislike either player, and I want both of them to succeed. I also don’t think either of them are necessarily hurting our offense in a drastic way.
The bigger issue is that we just don’t have time to be just okay, or to figure things out. With that pick, time is ticking, and it has to happen now. Because Eli does not have much time left.
This would have been entirely different if the Giants drafted a QB, because it would have been much more of a long game. The Jets took Sam Darnold, and I don’t know if he’s going to be the “QB of the future”–obviously its far to early to tell. But I think most people can agree that he’s a pretty promising prospect, and, barring something going spectacularly wrong, they’re committed to him for at least the near future. That’s why when the Jets hit offensive roadbumps, like they certainly have this season, there’s not a sense of urgency around it. I’m sure it’s frustrating, don’t get me wrong, but it’s to be expected for a rookie quarterback and a rebuilding roster.
The Colts were in a similar situation when they took Andrew Luck. Yes, there were a lot of questions about Peyton Manning’s health, and I think it was very reasonable to think at the time that he would in no way make it near the level that he eventually did with Denver. But even putting those aside, the roster just wasn’t good enough to really compete with an aging Peyton. The previous year he played, 2010, showed that. Peyton gave it all he could, but the roster was so weak that it resulted in just a 10-6 wild card loss. That same roster would go 2-14 the next year. Andrew Luck was the right decision to go for the future, with a roster rebuild that would take some time. It only would have kept sense to keep Peyton if he could have competed for the Super Bowl, which was not really feasible with that roster.
In Peyton’s defense, he did go on to assault the record book with an average Denver roster and get them within a few game(s) of the Super Bowl for multiple years. But no one could have guessed he would play at that level after his injury, and it’s really amazing that he did. And even with that, he’s now retired, and Luck is in his prime.
Also, back to Eli for a second. I’m not even saying the Giants should have replaced him this year. I would have been fine sitting a rookie for a year or even two if necessary (although that rarely happens nowadays) and playing Eli regardless of how the year went. Having the rookie there for the long run would have at least given us some insurance for the future.
But the bottom line is that the Giants, for some reason, looked at a team that went 3-13, and decided that that team was good enough to compete for a Super Bowl right now. So when it starts too like that isn’t the case, there’s going to be cause for alarm rather quickly. The Giants have to be good now, because they clearly have no plan for the future. They bet it all on the now.
What I’m Seeing from Eli Manning and The Giants Offense
I’m a little late getting this article up, and the Giants-Panthers game is currently in play as I write it, so hopefully they prove me wrong. But through the first four weeks, and especially from watching that Saints game in full, I do have some things to say about Eli Manning and what I’m seeing from him currently. I’m not going to go into whether we should bench him or whether he’s finished or any of that (as many Giants fans are doing already)–he is who he is and he’s our Quarterback at least for the current season, so he’s what we’ve got.
I think Manning winning two Super Bowls so close together to each other, along with just having the last name “Manning”, being on a generally pretty good team, and being around for so long, made people think he was better than he really is. Eli’s best season was 2011, and that year was a bit of an anomaly. When you look at his overall body of work, Eli was never the most consistent or accurate Quarterback. What he was, was an aggressive intermediate and downfield passer that didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and throw into tight coverage. When you had a play action deep comeback or post, or a five step intermediate dig on 3rd and long, Eli would always throw those routes. And it was generally what he did best.
I’m not seeing that now. What I’m seeing now from Eli is a (perhaps overly) cautious checkdown Quarterback. The line certainly has played a role, as it’s been pretty poor for years now. But you can’t put it all on the line. No quarterback is under pressure on every play. Rather, I think that right now, for whatever reason, Eli seems a little gun shy, and hesitant to connect with his guys down the field. It’s likely that his offensive line being so poor for so long may have made him this way, and it’s now developed into a trait of its own. We saw something similar from Matt Ryan in 2013-2015, before Shanahan reinvigorated his aggressiveness. To be fair though, Eli has also not been super accurate or showed the same kind of arm strength when he has thrown the ball deep, so maybe that’s a part of his game that just isn’t what it used to be.
Regardless of the reason, it’s an issue that’s been going on for years, so it’s clear why the frustration is at a boiling point for Giants fans. It seems that no matter what changes are made, the story is the same: We just can’t move the ball on offense. Pat Shurmur was supposed to fix this as well, and it becomes even more curious that when you look at the fact that in Minnesota last year, with an average Quarterback in Case Keenum, that offense ran like a well oiled machine, and Keenum just simply had to execute and distribute.
How can it be fixed? I think that Eli Manning is a passer who needs to get into a rhythm, and I’m not seeing that as of recent. I think it may behoove the Giants to go to more pace early in games. Not even no huddle, just start a little more up tempo, with some quick throws on early downs to get Eli in a groove. Right now, the Giants are playing slow and trying to establish the ground game early with Barkley, but our offensive line might just not be good enough to do that in its current state.
Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: The Giants Offense is broken. For everyone’s sake, lets hope they find a way to fix it soon.