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Mike Sullivan: What His Departure Means for Eli Manning and the New York Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 08:  Quarterback coach Mike Sullivan of the New York Giants speaks Eli Manning #10, David Carr #8, Ryan Perrilloux #5, and Sage Rosenfels #18 take part in practice at New Meadowlands Sports Complex on August 8, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Louis MustoContributor IIIFebruary 13, 2012

In the last two seasons for the New York Giants, quarterback Eli Manning has posted the best numbers of his eight-year career in the NFL. While not trying to take anything away from Manning, much of that clearly has something to do with the Giants quarterbacks coach these past two seasons—Mike Sullivan.

Sullivan took over for former quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer prior to the 2010 season. He had spent the previous six years coaching the Giants’ receivers.

This season, Manning made the biggest leap of his career and grew into the “elite” quarterback he and much of the Giants organization knew he could become. Manning posted a career high and franchise record in passing yards with 4,933 and completed 61 percent of his passes with 29 touchdowns and a much-improved 16 interceptions—down from the 25 interceptions he threw in 2010.

Sullivan’s contributions to Manning’s vast improvement resulted in the Giants being the fifth-ranked passing offense in the NFL in 2011, highlighted by a bumpy and illustrious run to the franchise’s second Super Bowl in five seasons, both of which Sullivan was a member of the Giants coaching staff for.

On Friday night, Sullivan was hired to be the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by new Bucs head coach Greg Schiano.

While there is no questioning the excitement Buccaneers fans should have with an incoming offensive coordinator who had his hand in evolving Eli Manning from “good quarterback” to “elite quarterback,” what does Sullivan’s hiring mean for the New York Giants going forward?

Yes, Manning is a quarterback who has made progressions throughout his career, but Sullivan’s impact on his play is evident. In 2010 and 2011, despite the interception trouble in the former, Manning was a much more composed and lethal passer in the pocket. Though Manning had always succeeded with the talent around him, he learned to trust his receivers more than ever before, and as a result, he has won 19 regular-season games and a Super Bowl in the last two years.

Coming into this season, Manning claimed to be elite and insisted he was not the 25-inteception quarterback he was in 2010. In 2011, Manning and Sullivan made sure that claim became fact.

Can Manning, and thus the Giants offense, continue to succeed as they did in 2011 without Sullivan?

Some quarterbacks may require a certain sense of continuity to keep pace with the growth they experience, but ultimately, this is a minor coaching change that Manning has already dealt with twice before in his pro career. Sullivan’s coaching has certainly influenced Manning’s development, and it is something Manning will hold onto and use to create more wins for the Giants in the future.

The Giants’ offensive scheme is not changing, and with main passing targets Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on the 2012 roster, there is no reason to believe Sullivan’s departure will be anything but a minor bump for an offensive unit capable of being the very best in the NFL.

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