This is the new normal.
If you haven’t watched much of the New York Giants in the last year or so, Eli Manning’s performance on Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys may have come as a surprise. Manning threw for just 220 yards — 5.79 per attempt — and one of those backbreaking Eli Manning interceptions that happens all too often. The Giants scored just three points and didn’t run a single play in Cowboys’ territory during the first half. They got into the red zone just once in the entire game.
This against a defense which ranked 18th in DVOA last season and lost two of its best players, safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, during the offseason. David Irving and Randy Gregory, arguably their two best pass rushers, missed the game with suspensions. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens, a starter, was out with an injury. No matter, the Cowboys threw it back to Doomsday for three hours.
Sure, there were reasons other than Eli Manning for the Giants’ woeful offensive performance. The front office did nothing to address the tackle positions during the offseason, leaving their 36-year old quarterback at the mercy of Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart, the football equivalent of being trapped in a foxhole with Bernie Madoff and Craig Carton.
Odell Beckham, the best receiver this franchise has had since anybody can remember, was out with a high ankle sprain. The Giants’ run game is nonexistent. That’s fine and good. If you hadn’t watched Manning for the last year, this performance could easily be blamed on other factors.
But we have watched Manning for the last year and we know that this is normal. We spent all of 2016 watching Manning struggle through games in the same exact way: missing open receivers, looking uncomfortable in the pocket and using the Giants’ defense as a crutch. In the last 17 games Manning has played, including last night, he’s averaged just 5.82 adjusted net yards per attempt. And even that overstates his performance.
It’s not as if a 36-year old quarterback struggling is an especially surprising development. Age comes for everyone, and it’s time to acknowledge that Manning has fallen victim. Sunday night wasn’t the exception. It was the new rule.