Sunday, September 23, 2012

New York Giants: Eli And Kevin Gilbride Rewriting Giants History

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE

NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL:  Over The Last Three Seasons, The Offensive Line Has Deteriorated, The Running Game Has Declined, While Wide Receiver Needed Healing After A Shot To The Leg.  The More Giant Conditions Worsened Around Eli, The Greater Big Blue's Quarterback Became.

During Eli Manning's rookie season of 2004, he appeared in nine games and started seven.  He completed 95 of 197 pass attempts for 1,043 yards.  Eli finished his first season with six touchdowns and nine interceptions.  Nine years later, just three games into the 2012 season, Eli Manning has completed 79 of 118 pass attempts for 1,011 yards.  He has thrown five touchdowns and has been intercepted three times.

Since the day Eli threw his first pass in the NFL, through last Thursday's game against the Carolina Panthers, Eli has thrown for 28,590 yards, which now ranks #43 all-time.  If all goes well against the Eagles next Sunday, Eli will pass Len Dawson and Rich Gannon, and move up to #41 all-time behind Brad Johnson.  If two of the three QB's I just mentioned sound pedestrian to you, it is because they were.  But while Gannon's and Johnson's careers are closed books, Eli doesn't turn thirty two years old until January.  With continued health, the names on the all-time list Eli closes on will surely become more elite.

Within the Land of Giants, Phil Simms tops the G-Men with 33,462 yards passing.  Eli is now just 4,872 yards away.  It might take the final two minutes in Week Sixteen to get it done, but Eli Manning can pass Phil Simms this season.  If Eli keeps throwing at this current pace, there is a slight chance he can accumulate another 4,000+ yards passing this season.  Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying...., Eli is on his way towards a 5,000 yard season.  It would be the organization's first.

Phil Simms topped 4,000 yards passing one time in his career.  That came in 1984 when he attempted a career high 533 passes.  That also marked the only time Simms ever attempted 500+ passes in a season.  Phil Simms had five other seasons in which he eclipsed 3,000 yards passing.  And four times in his career, he threw twenty or more touchdowns.

Phil Simms battled many injuries throughout his career.  Were it not for injury, his career numbers would surely appear to the average fan far superior than they do.  And if you're a Giants fan of that era like I am, you know Phil played for Bill Parcells within an entirely different system of football than we are currently playing today.  Everything the Giants did back then was predicated off the running game.  Phil Simms was charged with game management, and on occasion, greatness.  Smash mouth football limited Phil Simms to a career average twenty eight pass attempts per game.

Giants fans will never hesitate calling Phil Simms a great quarterback.  In Super Bowl XXI, he lived the dream and authored the most efficient day a quarterback could ever have in the biggest game of his career.  While not organization's first NFL championship, Phil Simms did deliver Giants fans their first ever Lombardi Trophy.  He was also largely responsible for putting the Giants in position for a second trophy.

Life is different for a certain age of Giants fan now.  Not drastically though, for defense still rules the day.  Instead of dominating with linebackers as the Giants did back then, today they do it with defensive linemen.  Offensively however, guys like me are still a little astonished with the new pass first regime.

Holding the leash of this modern Blue monster is Simon Bar Sinister; Kevin Gilbride.  Since 2006, he is the Offensive Coordinator who routinely leads the league in most yards attempted per pass.  He and Eli Manning have now collaborated on two Super Bowl winning drives.  Kevin Gilbride was Eli's quarterback coach for his first two seasons in the league.  That set the foundation for what the two would accomplish together after Kevin Gilbride's promotion to Offensive Coordinator seven years ago.

Interestingly, before the 2011 season, Eli attempted his most passes in 2005 under former Coordinator John Hufnagel.  It wasn't until Eli's sixth season under Gilbride that he re-established his new career high with 589 pass attempts last season.  Not coincidentally, Eli set a new career single season high with 4,933 yards.  Some of that was born out of having the worst rushing game in the league.  But it is still easy to see 5,000 yards being the next logical step for them both.

Save for his rookie season, Eli has never thrown less than twenty touchdowns.  Under Kevin Gilbride, Eli has averaged thirty two pass attempts per game.  He has topped 500+ attempts in six of the last seven seasons.  In every season except his rookie year, Eli has surpassed 3,000 yards passing.  For the past three consecutive seasons, he surpassed 4,000 yards passing.  Last season he threw for roughly nine hundred more yards than he did in 2009 and 2010, and fell just sixty seven yards short of his first 5,000 yard campaign.  But then again, he won his second Super Bowl MVP, didn't he?  Together, Eli and Coach Gilbride are re-writing the Giants record books and cementing themselves a place in all-time Giants history with a body of work unrivaled within the organization.  And they do not seem nearly through.

Over the last three seasons Kevin Gilbride's and Eli's attempts have risen commensurate with the decline of the once formidable Giants running game, and specifically the decline of Brandon Jacobs.  As is the case today regarding Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants back is often compromised by injury rather than being in decline.  Also consider, three seasons ago the Giants record setting Offensive Line was ravaged by injuries.  In 2011, Jerry Reese began reconstruction of the Offensive Line in earnest with the releasing of Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert, and the free agent acquisition of David Baas.

Over the last three seasons, that wasn't all that was seemingly collapsing around Eli Manning.  In 2008, Plaxico Burress put a bullet into the Giants chance at yet another Super Bowl.  But more lasting, he blasted a wound into the position of wide receiver that took the Giants almost two seasons to heel from.

Since 2009, Jerry Reese selected a number of receivers that Eli Manning is now currently in the process of turning into stars.  And entering this season, Jerry Reese continued revamping the line with the release of Kareem McKenzie.  If David Diehl isn't already compromised by a recent injury, he is surely next to get replaced.  In the backfield, as noted, Ahmad Bradshaw missed the last two games after an early Week Two injury.  And rookie David Wilson is doing everything possible to stay in Coach Coughlin's dog house.  Something unexpected happened on the way to Week Three however.  The Offensive Line has been back-up effectively by Sean Locklear and the return of Will Beatty.  And the rushing game has also been refortified by third year Aaron Brown, who as Bill Parcells used to say, is running with power.

We shall see how Kevin Gilbride proceeds forward with a resurgent offensive line, and a reborn running game which now relies on a third year back getting his first crack at starting.  However, in spite of a few revelations during Week Two, the worse conditions and situations get around Eli, the better he becomes.  Since the 2009 season, in the face of a deteriorating running game, the decline of a once formidable offensive line, and left with a gaping wound at wide receiver, Eli Manning's heroics have multiplied exponentially, and his greatness revealed.

Bring on the Eagles!


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