At halftime Monday night, MetLife Stadium honored the 2007 New York Giants. Many members of the Super Bowl champion team walked to the middle of the field and waved to the crowd, basking in warm nostalgia. One of them sat in the Giants’ locker room, trying to solve what has gone horribly wrong for the current edition of the team.
Quarterback Eli Manning is one of two Giants remaining from the team that knocked off the undefeated New England Patriots. (Long snapper Zak DeOssie is the other.) Manning is 36 years old. The bellies and receding hairlines of his retired teammates offered a reminder that his own career, which will send him to the Hall of Fame, will end soon.
The Giants’ offense is broken, and they are wasting whatever remains of Manning’s effectiveness. The ugliness reached a nadir Monday night. At least the Giants hope it cannot get worse than their 24-10 loss at home to the Detroit Lions, which dropped them to 0-2. Manning may not have much left, might be done as an above-average NFL quarterback. The coaches and players around him have been so atrocious it’s hard to tell whether he is a co-conspirator of the Giants’ horrific offense or a victim. They are not giving him a chance, either to succeed or to reveal he’s done.
In the Giants’ past eight games, including their playoff loss last January in Green Bay, they have scored 10, 3, 13, 19, 19, 17, 10 and 14 points. Despite the downward trend at the end of last season, Coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese changed nothing of significance.
Paul Perkins is still the running back, plunging three yards at a time with little burst or ability to break tackles. They brought back their offensive line, including 2015 first-round bust Ereck Flowers at left tackle, for which Manning should be able to sue his franchise under the Geneva Conventions. They signed Brandon Marshall, who has been invisible except when he materializes to drop passes.
McAdoo is among the least inventive coaches in the NFL. He calls plays, a role he should relinquish after Monday’s performance. Last season, the Giants used “11 personnel” — one running back and one tight end — more than 90 percent of the time. The addition of Marshall and rookie tight end Evan Engram — a big outside target made for sprinting up the seam — was supposed to diversify the offense. It so far looks just as dull as last season’s.
Marshall has been a disaster. He has caught two passes in two games, and Monday he caught one of five targets and dropped a crucial pass down the right sideline that would have put the Giants in position to try for a game-tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Two plays later, the Giants punted, and the Lions’ Jamal Agnew returned it 88 yards for a touchdown. As Agnew crossed the goal line, the Giants’ Super Bowl aspirations had fully deteriorated.
The biggest issue with the Giants’ offensive catastrophe is no longer how it affects their season. The problem is, the Giants cannot accurately evaluate Manning and how much longer he should be their starting quarterback.
Because Manning, for all he has accomplished with the Giants, is not blameless. In the third quarter, he had Sterling Shepherd open in the end zone and threw it over his head. He subsequently took a delay-of-game penalty when the Giants were trying to go for it on fourth and goal from the 2. “Sloppy quarterback play,” McAdoo said, choosing an inopportune time for an honest assessment that threw Manning under the bus.
Manning, never a mobile quarterback, is a sitting duck behind the Giants’ awful blocking. He has started feeling ghosts, dodging pressure on the rare instances it doesn’t come. Manning has averaged 6.7 yards per attempt when not pressured. He’s dumping the ball off short even when the pass rush doesn’t get there.
The Giants realize Manning could be closing in on the end. They drafted quarterback Davis Webb in the third round as a possible heir. But this is the NFL, so the conversation could always change. Manning has conjured winning streaks out of bleakness before. There was another team Manning played on that started the year 0-2: The 2007 Giants. The Giants can find solace in that if they want, but their offense has been so terrible they would just be fooling themselves.
>>> Odell Beckham Jr., who suffered an ankle sprain in the preseason, made his season debut Monday night after uncertainty all week about whether he’d play. Beckham was used sparingly and mostly as a decoy. He caught four of the five passes Manning attempted in his direction for 36 yards and had one drop.
>> Rick Maese has an important story: Attorneys are concerned former players due payments from a concussion settlements are not getting their checks in a timely matter. From the story:
The lawyers, many of whom say they have been shut out of the process, contend their clients’ claims are being unnecessarily denied or audited. Steve Yerrid, a high-profile attorney from Tampa, filed a brief with the court last week asking to “present evidence showing that no (or very few) claims have been paid to any former player.”
Yerrid’s group represents more than 300 former players. He said in an interview Monday that none has had a claim granted thus far, even though some filed their claims six months ago.
“They have not seen one penny,” he said.
>>> The Bengals are not signing Colin Kaepernick, as Paul Dehner writes, despite rumors about Cincinnati players campaigning for the team to sign him as Andy Dalton has fallen off a cliff. Kaepernick told reporter Shaun King over the weekend that he wants to play and is in condition to play immediately.
Kaepernick’s past performance has proved he is good enough to be in the league, in some capacity. As stated here before: If a league that has seen Scott Tolzien start a game has decided it doesn’t want Colin Kaepernick, then it’s not going to happen. The Vikings gave Case Keenum a whirl Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Jaguars signed Ryan Nassib on Monday. As a group, NFL teams have shown they’re willing to play and sign quarterbacks who, by any reasonable measure, are worse than Kaepernick. It looks more and more likely the collective cowardice of NFL owners and management is going to keep him out of the league.
>> Rob Gronkowski isn’t worried about the groin injury that forced him from Sunday’s game, as Mike Reiss writes. That’s a good sign for the Patriots. The Texans, Sunday’s opponent, hounded Tom Brady and gave New England a stiff test in the playoffs last season. Facing J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney without Julian Edeleman, Brady will need a safety valve. Gronkowski can provide it.
>> Quick, name the NFL team with the best point differential after two weeks: It’s the Raiders, having outscored the Titans and Jets by 35 points. They have provided an emphatic start for those who believed they would not live up the hype following last year’s breakout season. And they’re having fun, too: Great tidbit here from Matt Schneidman on how Marshawn Lynch got Oakland’s backup running backs to walk out with him during pregame warmups.
Read more on the NFL: