NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL ~ In the Age of Eli,
QB Coaches No Longer Need Apply.
It is easy to say now, but since the day Big Blue drafted Eli Manning, I have always been on his side. And I'm am proud to say I never wavered. If you knew how badly I wanted the N.Y. Mets baseball team deconstructed five years ago, you'll believe me. If you go back to the days when Ray Perkins coached the Giants, then I think there's no doubt you'll believe me. Both were exercises in patience over extended periods of time. So as a fan, I was practiced in the art of suffering through rebuilding years.
There was good reason to rally around the highly touted draft pick. Former GM Ernie Accorsi said he was the real deal. And if you thought Bill Parcells leaving the Giants was the end of the world like I did; and that the Giants would never ever be successful again like I did; then you knew there was reason to take Ernie Accorsi at his word. He made the Giants good again. With great relief, Giants fans started to see daylight on Sundays again by the time Jim Fassel, John Fox, and Ernie Accorsi were running things around here.
I had a great appreciation for what Accorsi built in Cleveland with the old Browns. I speak of the team which came up short two consecutive times, victimized by last minute touchdown drives orchestrated by John Elway and the Broncos in dual AFC Championship games of the late 80's.
I agreed with pulling the plug on Kurt Warner and effectively sabotaging a good start to the 2004 Giants' season, and handing the ball off to Eli no matter how much the cry babies who played under Fassel didn't like it. I'm not going to name names. But the truth is, they were an immature and entitled bunch who made conditions hard for a kid QB to grow up in.
Eli's rookie season was rough. There's no denying that. But you must be willing to endure that sort of thing. And besides, wholesale changes were at the Giants' door steps. So why not let him get in some on-the-job training for nine games? That 2004 team wasn't going to win a Super Bowl anyway. That was the same team that quit on Jim Fassel, remember? Tom Coughlin knew at once, Kurt Warner was useless to him, and that the sooner he got Eli uncorked, the sooner, and better his tenure, and the team would be.
In his first full season, Eli threw seventeen interceptions. But he also threw twenty-four touchdowns, and passed for over 3,700 yards. Maybe I'm just getting old. But where I come from, that used to mean a lot. Not only that, but Eli showed he was very adept at the two-minute drill, and late game management and comebacks, even then. So there was much to feel optimistic about. He just needed to develop. The criticisms levied by some of his team mates were extremely misguided. Just look at one of the messengers in particular, who had a habit of throwing anyone in his way under the bus. Thing is, he spoke well into a microphone, and the media ate it up, and fed it right back to salivating fans.
In the Super Bowl season of 2007, Eli threw his highest interception total to that point in his four year career. But if you ask me, the biggest difference in Eli Manning's play that season came when the Giants hired Chris Palmer to be their QB Coach. The relationship between him and Eli took time to percolate as with any. But after a near full season working together, by December and through the playoffs, I think the Chris Palmer Effect and how he influenced Eli's performance goes incredibly under spoken; if not unrecognized. Chris Palmer previously worked together with Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville. So you can call this correlation a coincidence if you like. But I tend not to. I do believe one had something to do with the other.
In January of 2010, Chris Palmer retired. Tom Coughlin selected Mike Sullivan to be his next QB coach. In 2004, he served as Tom Coughlin's Wide Receivers coach, and now he was the QB coach? No, sorry. Not a good move here. Needless to say, Eli immediately proceeded to set his new career high for interceptions in a season with twenty-five. The grumblings and uneasiness between Eli and Sullivan did not go unnoticed either.
I believe many factors played into Eli's outrageous twenty-five pics during the 2010 season. Eli deserves a share of blame for throwing many passes too high. Kevin Gilbride deserves a handsome share of blame for countless bouts of extremely unnecessary pass play selection. And then a chunk of blame goes to the receivers for tipping a slew of passes into the air and putting the ball up for grabs.
But for the second consecutive season and the first time with Mike Sullivan, Eli cracked the 4,000 yard passing mark, after four straight seasons breaking 3,000 yards with Palmer around. Additionally, for the first time, Eli exceeded thirty touchdown passes in a season.
Aggravated as both Eli and Coach Sullivan were with the 2010 season, Eli was out-growing the need for a mentor anyway. Wasn't he? Eli is now the teacher. His receivers are the grasshoppers. Over the last two and three seasons, a preponderance of injuries have plagued the Giants Wide Receiver and Tight End positions. Eli has taken each and every player tasked with stepping in, and made them all productive. By the 2011 season, Eli's interceptions were back down to a more manageable sixteen. Oh, and he won his second Super Bowl MVP award.
Moving forward, I honestly believe Eli's best days are ahead of him. Aw Shucks Eli is the freakin' Mann now! Quarterback coaches need not apply.