Now the NFL's third-lowest-rated qualifying passer and the league leader in interceptions by a 19 percent margin (he has 25 picks; only four other quarterbacks have 15 or more), Eli Manning has hit rock bottom.
And, in comparison to what they've been able to accomplish in the 10 years since Manning and Tom Coughlin joined the team in 2004, so have the New York Giants as a whole.
Nothing is salvageable over these final two weeks. Nothing at all, regardless of how many touchdown passes Manning might be able to throw or how many games the Giants are able to win (zero, one or two).
Things can only get worse, especially for Manning, who has been sacked a career-high 36 times in the process. Not only is the two-time Super Bowl MVP experiencing the worst season of his professional career, but he has also reached a new career-low when it comes to support received.
That's the primary reason the Giants have to throw in the towel by keeping Manning out of the starting lineup for the first time since his rookie season.
Of course, that's not something I'd expect a stubborn, old-school organization to do at this point. But it makes a whole lot of sense.
They have a semi-promising rookie quarterback on the roster after drafting Syracuse product Ryan Nassib in the fourth round last April. This gives them a perfect opportunity to see Nassib play under real-world circumstances in games that matter—at least to New York's opponents.
Nassib has had 15 weeks to watch Manning. Let's see what he's learned. Let's see what kind of progress he's made since the preseason.
Why not? Wouldn't clarity be appreciated, regardless of whether Nassib were to succeed or fail?
Not only would a two-week Nassib demonstration help the Giants gain a better feel for his potential future as a franchise quarterback, but it would also spare Manning further abuse and/or embarrassment.
Things have become so bad for Manning that you have to wonder how a player in the supposed prime of his career will be able to recover. Since 2010, Manning has thrown 81 interceptions in 62 games. During that stretch, no other quarterback in football has thrown 70.
|Most interceptions, 2010-2013|
|1. Eli Manning||Giants||81||33-29|
|2. Carson Palmer||Cardinals||67||21-34|
|3. Drew Brees||Saints||65||41-21|
|4. Ryan Fitzpatrick||Titans||64||18-36|
|5. Philip Rivers||Chargers||57||31-31|
|6. Joe Flacco||Ravens||49||41-20|
|Pro Football Reference (not including Week 15 Monday night game)|
Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith says the following of Eli:
The only major statistical category Manning has ever led the league in is interceptions, and he’s now well on his way to leading the league in that category for the third time. With his pathetic five-interception game on Sunday, Manning has now thrown a whopping 25 interceptions this season. Manning gets cut a lot of slack because he has two Super Bowl rings, but he throws some absolutely dreadful passes. Interceptions have always been a problem for Manning, and the way Manning has played this season is inexcusable.
Of course, it's not all his fault, which brings us back to that lack of support.
His pass protection has never been worse, the running game has lacked consistency and he has stuck with an unimaginative offensive coordinator and an offense that generally lacks creativity or substance. And, on top of all that, his receivers are letting him down.
Manning was mainly responsible for the career-high five interceptions he threw Sunday against the Seahawks, but his top two receivers failed to win battles with defensive backs on four of the five picks.
So don't consider this a punishment, because it's not all on No. 10. This is about applying logic in a long-lost season—Manning's first losing campaign since he was a rookie in 2004.
It wasn't all on Robert Griffin III in Washington either, but Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan decided to sit an apparently healthy Griffin for the final three weeks based on the risk-return spectrum.
Manning has gone nearly a decade in this league without suffering a major injury. But he's almost 33 now and he's probably been hit more this year than any of his previous nine seasons. By allowing Manning to continue to take shots behind an offensive line that is missing 40 percent of its starters in games that don't carry any importance is arguably a bit negligent.
"When it rains, it pours, and he just hasn’t been able to put it together this year," Justin Tuck said Sunday, per Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. "I have no doubt in my mind he’s going to bounce out of this and be the Eli of old heading into next year.”
Next year. Exactly. That's all anyone in New York is thinking about right now.
There's nothing more to prove and nothing more to be gleaned from a spoiled 2013 campaign. Very little good can come from throwing Manning to the wolves for two meaningless games, but a lot can be cultivated from what Nassib might be capable/incapable of doing against Detroit and Washington.
It's the kind of bold move Coughlin and that coaching staff would never make, but that ultra-conservative approach might help explain why they're stumbling through their fourth non-playoff season in a five-year span.
Time to mix things up. Time to give the franchise quarterback a much-needed break.