Eli Manning will be the New York Giants quarterback on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. It should be that way not just for this weekend but for the rest of the year, even as this team sits with a 1-7 record and an eye towards another rebuilding year.
His completion percentage is actually up this year, higher than his career average. And his touchdown to interception ratio is also better than his career average. His interception percentage is the lowest of his career and his quarterback rating is above his 14-season average. Numbers that don’t point to a player who is at fault or deserves a benching.
While 2017 has not been a tremendous year for Manning, he is by no means the problem or even one of the major issues for a Giants offense that to date has barely shown a pulse. Pin the blame on Manning’s offensive line, a unit that is among the worst in the league if not the very bottom. Blame the lack of a running game or the playcalling, which has done very little to support him.
Or even the fact that his top three wide receivers have missed good chunks of the season so far and that the top two targets are out for the rest of the year.
But while Manning isn’t blameless, he isn’t the reason why the Giants are No. 29 in total offense and there’s no reason he should be benched. Head coach Ben McAdoo said as much this week and Manning, to his credit, is drowning out all the distractions around him and simply preparing.
“I want to play. That’s what I like to do,” Manning said on Tuesday. “I like to play football and play quarterback and I take — I understand that I got a job to do and I got to do it better and do it well and get wins and if you don’t, everybody’s job is up for grabs in this league.”
And while the Giants are certainly closer to the post-Manning era than the beginning, now is not the time to become fully invested in moving on from their two-time Super Bowl MVP.
Keeping in mind that Manning has been tremendous the past couple of seasons, he is far from washed-up. This year’s struggles have more to do with questionable choices in free agency, ignoring the offensive line and years of bizarre draft selections finally coming home to roost.
All of which would cripple even a Tom Brady.
Manning’s under contract until next year, meaning that the Giants don’t need to rush this year to find a replacement. And while everyone is chomping at the bit to see draft pick Davis Webb, starting the rookie may not be ideal.
Training camp showed that Webb isn’t ready for primetime and rushing him onto the field won’t help his development. It also won’t help the development of first-round pick Evan Engram or the Giants young (albeit depleted) wide receivers who would develop better with Manning under center than a rookie playing like a deer in the headlights.
This is still Manning’s team and remarkably there is still a window for the Giants next year (and potentially 2019) to maximize the talent of the best quarterback in franchise history. The time isn’t there to move on from a quarterback who has thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of the past three seasons.
So for now, Manning sticks to being who he is: Unflappable and yet always prepared. Frustration, he says, doesn’t factor into his mindset.
“That doesn’t fix anything. That’s not going to help us win the next game,” Manning said. “So, I got to just keep preparing and working and keep getting some young guys up to speed and have confidence in them and knowing that we can go win this next game.”