The New York Giants are off to their worst start since 1976. After losing to the Chicago Bears Thursday night, the G-men fell to 0-6. Football is a team game, but it’s hard to ignore the struggles of one player: quarterback Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has thrown 15 interceptions, already matching his season total from last year.
Jonathan Clegg, who wrote an article titled “Eli Manning’s Dangerous Addiction To The Deep Ball” for the Wall Street Journal, joined Bill Littlefield.
BL: Tell us how long passes have left Manning and the Giants hoping for a Hail Mary.
JC: The Giants offense has been horrific this season. They can’t move the ball on the ground. They really struggle to move the chains at all. The upshot is that he’s now throwing long passes at a record rate. He’s on pace to throw roughly 18 percent of his passes this season will be of at least 20 yards down field, and it’s not doing him any favors.
BL: Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are back this year. The Giants do have a new tight end – former Oakland Raider Brandon Myers. But what about the rest of the team? Have they lost a lot of guys, a crucial coach, a terrific offensive lineman? Has something else gone wrong?
JC: There’s been a lot of problems on the offensive line. Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee is out for the season on injured reserve with a hip injury. Their starting center David Baas has missed all but one game this season. The Giants are on pace to give up the largest number of sacks in their 10 years under Tom Coughlin. They’re also working in second year receiver Rueben Randle who has been the intended receiver on six of Eli’s interceptions. Rueben Randall and Eli Manning are obviously not on the same page when it comes to what they’re seeing from the defense down field.
BL: All right, I want to look at the optimistic possibility. The Giants won the Super Bowl after going 9-7 during the regular season in 2011. So, let’s presume all they have to do is go 9-1 from here on in down the stretch and maybe win their second title in three years, right?
JC: Well that’s certainly the optimistic way of looking at it. It’s tough to see them winning one game at the moment let alone nine. And, in fact, their schedule gets a lot harder the second half of the season. So it’s going to be a struggle, for sure. I don’t think any team has ever reached the playoffs after starting 0-6. But I certainly think that in the long run the Giants are not as bad as they appear.
BL: Still, 0-6 is 0-6. Should we anticipate that Giants fans will soon be showing up with paper bags on their heads?
JC: That started after three weeks, so that’s not something we’re anticipating. We’ve already seen that. Yeah the Giants fans are not taking this very well, as you can imagine. We haven’t heard many calls for Tom Coughlin to be fired yet – their two-time Super Bowl winning coach. Although knowing the fans here in New York, it probably won’t be long.
BL: Peyton Manning, Eli’s brother, is of course having a magnificent season so far in Denver. I wonder if there’s some sort of Yin and Yang where one brother succeeds magnificently the other must be on the underside.
JC: It’s possible. I don’t know how the Manning family [is] reacting to this – whether Eli’s been disinherited or something. Certainly the conspiracy theorists would point out that Eli won the Super Bowl in 2011 when Peyton was ruled out for the season with a neck injury and had nothing better to do than to study his brother’s opponents and give him tips on how to beat them, so it’s possible that having Peyton back starting and doing his own thing hurt Eli somewhat.