The erosion of Eli: The Giant problem with the franchise QB


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If you look at the surface statistics, Eli Manning is off to a strong start this season. There is a career-best 71.7 completion percentage, 1,381 passing yards with six touchdown passes and three interceptions through five games.
The New York Giants' starting quarterback seems fine heading into Thursday night's matchup against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox). He appears to be the same reliable quarterback he has been most of his career.
It’s underneath the wrapping paper, bows and bubble wrap where you realize there's little worthwhile inside. All those standard statistics are a hollow shell of numbers leading to losses.
Manning is 32nd in the NFL with an average of 10.31 yards per completion. He's tied for 28th with a touchdown on 3.2 percent of his pass attempts. His 7.02 air yards per attempt put him 29th among quarterbacks.
“All you have to do is watch him,” one NFL executive said. “Don’t think about what his name is. Just watch him. Don’t make excuses. It’s blatant and obvious.”
These stats simply would be numbers if the Giants (1-4) were winning. But Manning is declining, and the losses are piling up.
His offensive line might be contributing, but there is nobody else left to blame. The Giants changed coaches, schemes and general managers, loaded up on weapons and invested heavily in a left tackle and a pair of guards in an attempt to prop up their quarterback. It's not working.
Behind closed doors, several Giants players have expressed frustration with Manning's performance, according to sources. One player specifically commented recently about Manning’s inability to do anything against Cover 2 and zone defenses.
Manning's struggles aren't really new, and can't all be pawned off on his offensive line. They're an extension of the previous two seasons, when the Giants were among the league’s lowest-scoring teams. This isn’t a five-game outlier. This has become the norm.
Consider:
Manning was hit on 6 percent of his throws last season; now, he is near the middle of the pack in QB contact and 12th in pressure faced.
  • Manning is holding on to the ball longer this year (2.65 seconds compared to 2.35 seconds in 2017) while playing in a new offense under coach Pat Shurmur.

  • Manning has been sacked the fourth-most times in the NFL this season. He has also been sacked on 16 of 24 quarterback hits (67 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Back in his second Super Bowl season (2011), Manning was sacked on just 46 percent of quarterback hits.

  • The Giants are 24th in points per game, despite having offensive weapons such as Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, when he's healthy.

  • They’ve failed to score 20 points in three of five games and reached 30 points on Sunday for the first time since Tom Coughlin was the coach in 2015 (Week 17).

  • Manning has fewer touchdown passes (six) than all but two quarterbacks (Dak Prescott and Case Keenum) who have started five games.

  • The Giants rank 23rd in points per game this season (20.8) and ranked 31st last season (15.4). They’re 34-52 over the past five seasons and have lost 18 of their past 22 overall.

  • When looking at why teams struggle in the NFL, start with the quarterback.
    How did this once-proud franchise and quarterback get here?
    The slow and painful decline
    This is Manning’s 15th season as the Giants' starting quarterback. He’s a two-time Super Bowl MVP with a Hall of Fame-caliber résumé. But somewhere in recent years, there has been a significant drop-off.
    It's as if the game changed on Manning, a traditional pocket passer who has become obsolete. In today's NFL, if you're unable to move around the pocket and avoid the wave of pass-rushers, it's almost impossible to be successful. Under pressure, Manning has 132 yards passing and no touchdowns on 48 dropbacks this season.