Every NFL team wants its franchise quarterback. I'm not really breaking any news with that statement. Hell, after Sunday's Hoyer-Mallett puke-laden roller coaster ride against the Kansas City Chiefs, no city is more aware of the need for "The Guy" at the most important position in sports than the city of Houston.
However, there's a hidden cost that comes with winning Super Bowls, that comes with having a "The Guy" type quarterback long past his "The Guy" days are over. That cost comes back to roost when said quarterback is in his mid-thirties and can't really play at a high level anymore, but the team still must pay him.
Not everybody is Tom Brady. Eli Manning most certainly isn't Tom Brady. Giants fans have known this for some time; however, the economics of the NFL (with some dumb sentimentality sprinkled in) recently brought their heavy hand down on the franchise, and they were cornered into paying the "going rate for a franchise quarterback" to Manning, inking a four-year, $84 million extension ($65 million guaranteed) with him last week.
Whether Eli Manning is or ever was a "franchise quarterback" probably depends on your definition of "franchise quarterback." He did win two Super Bowls, one in 2007 and another in 2011. He is durable, having not missed a start in ten seasons since the opener in 2005. However, those two Super Bowl runs are the only postseasons in which he's even won a game. He's only even made five postseasons in ten seasons as a full-time starter. Not elite numbers.
Eli Manning has only won ten or more games as a starter four times in his career, and zero since 2010. By contrast, Eli's brother Peyton has won double-digit games every season since 2001, and in all but two seasons overall during his career. So by the very narrow-minded measurement of "Hey, he did happen to catch fire in two playoff runs!" Eli is a franchise quarterback, I suppose.
By every other measurement, he's Mark Brunell. At best.
So now that we've established all that, it's up to you to decide whether or not the Giants were smart in
crippling their franchise's salary cap for the next three years extending Eli Manning. For now, Eli has played one game since signing his new deal, and it didn't go well. On Sunday night, somehow the Giants managed to turn a 23-20 lead with less than two minutes to go, and with the ball at the Cowboys one yard line, into a 27-26 loss.
And honestly, Eli Manning (along with head coach Tom Coughlin) is almost entirely to blame. Here are the boneheaded fingerprints of one Eli Manning on a catastrophic loss that has charted the Giants on their inevitable 6-10 course for 2015:
1. I'll let Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com point out the first mistake from Eli, which gets lost in the wash because it happened with around four minutes left in the game:
Their first mistake came on the first third down of the possession, after the ball had been knocked downfield following a play. After two real-time minutes of desperate negotiations with the referee and clock operator, the Giants lined up with their play already called as the clock began to run at 4:20 with 40 full seconds remaining on the play clock. Manning recognized this and told his linemen not to get into their stances; had he wanted, he could have burned 39.5 seconds and gotten the clock down to 3:40 or so before snapping the football. Instead, he took the snap at 3:57, leaving 18 seconds on the play clock. Let’s just remember that number for now.
2. This came out after the game, but once the Giants had worked their way to first-and-goal at the Dallas four yard line with under two minutes to go, Eli Manning instructed RB Rashad Jennings to NOT score in order to run time off the clock. Only one problem — the Cowboys still had two timeouts left. Eli thought they had only one. From ESPN.com:
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning admitted taking strategic matters into his own hands late in Sunday night's season-opening loss to the Cowboys, confirming that he told running back Rashad Jennings not to score if he got close to the goal line. The purpose of the move was to run more time off the clock and deprive Dallas a chance at a comeback.
What led up to that sequence was bizarre. Manning said he lost track of the number of timeouts the Cowboys had left and told Jennings to stay out of the end zone on consecutive plays in case Dallas decided to let him score.
"I thought they had one timeout left and they might let us score to get the ball back," Manning said on a conference call Monday. "So I told Rashad, 'Go down at the 1-inch line and don't score.'
"This did not come from the sideline. It was me, and I was wrong. I cannot be the one in that situation to inform a back. That's not my decision, in that scenario. I made a mistake."
Indeed, you did. Eli no count so good.
3. Finally, here was Eli's finishing move — on 3rd and goal from the one yard line, with 1:43 left and the Cowboys out of timeouts, the Giants chose to run a play action pass, which would be fine if they had a) completed it for a touchdown or b) taken a sack to keep the clock moving. Instead, Eli, under heavy pressure, heaved the ball out of the back of the end zone, stopping the clock and saving the Cowboys 40 valuable seconds.
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On fourth down, the Giants kicked a field goal to make it 26-20 (it's a separate debate as to whether they should've gone for the touchdown on fourth down or not — hint: they should have), and the Cowboys proceeded to take the ensuing kickoff and march down the field for the winning touchdown with under 15 seconds remaining.
Game, set, match. Cowboys 1-0, Giants 0-1. And the New York Post, as always, undefeated in the realm of headline writing…..
Good morning, Giants fans. pic.twitter.com/ietUvrEmJd— Bart Hubbuch (@BartHubbuch) September 15, 2015
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.