Ever since he entered the NFL, some members of the media and fans have looked for a reason to criticize Eli Manning. Some have even gone as far as openly campaigning for the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback to be benched.
The irony is that around the league, Manning is still respected by his fellow players and head coaches.
In the Week 1 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Manning didn’t post eye-popping statistics. The Giants’ quarterback completed 22 of his 37 passing attempts for 224 yards and an interception. Coming off a disappointing output a year ago, a somewhat subdued showing from the veteran won’t quiet the critics looking to pounce on Eli.
Eli Manning discusses the play of the offense and whether his timing with Odell Beckham is where it should be.
But those thoughts aren’t shared around the league.
There isn’t just a respect for Manning and his accomplishments — a career that includes two Super Bowl MVP titles and four Pro Bowl appearances — there is an acknowledgment for his ability in the here and now. Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, a former quarterback himself, echoed a line that is still common in NFL circles: Manning is still a dangerous quarterback.
“I just think Eli’s a great player,” Garrett said Wednesday during a conference call with the New York media.
“He has been for a long time, certainly the leader of that football team and still capable of making so many plays. He’s so smart, he knows how to use his weapons and he’s just been an outstanding player for a long time and a great challenge for us every time we face him.”
Time waits for no man and the 37-year-old is edging closer to retirement. But that doesn’t mean that Manning can’t still lead this rebuilt team in the present.
The key is the play of the offensive line. Give Manning time to find his targets and he can carve up most defenses. After all, he did top 4,000 passing yards and lead the Giants to the playoffs as recently as two years ago.
This isn’t a player who is in a wild and precipitous downturn in his career.
Under first-year head coach Pat Shurmur, the Giants have shown a willingness to run the ball, no doubt aided by the fact that they took Saquon Barkley second overall in the NFL Draft. The new offense and its balance under Shurmur pose some headaches for Garrett as he game plans this week for the Giants.
It is an offense that could help Manning out as the season progresses. If the Giants can run the ball and improve their pass protection, then Manning should be able to hit receivers down the field.
And in all likelihood, the Giants will have an easier time moving the ball this week, having faced the league’s top defense last year this past Sunday.
“I think there’s a system that they believe in what Pat [Shurmur] has been a part of for a lot of years, but I think the next level of that is to take that system and try your best to fit the different pieces you have into that system,” Garrett said.
“He’s done a really good job of that throughout his career and obviously the Giants have a lot of different weapons starting with the quarterback. But big-time receivers, tight ends, a running back – they’ve got a lot of great pieces there that every time the ball’s snapped, you have to be ready for. He’s done a great job for a long time, and they certainly have a lot of weapons that can challenge you.”
[Watch Giants 1st & 10 Friday at 6 PM on MSG & MSG GO.]