Getting a Break: Eli Stays Out of the Spotlight This Offseason

John SuttonContributor IMay 18, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 21:  Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants stands on the field before their game against the Carolina Panthers on December 21, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Ever since the initial shock of the Giants' loss to the Eagles in the NFC Divisional Playoffs wore off, the focus of those following the New York Giants has shifted away from the usual center of attention for the Giants.

The wide receiver position, a major coaching change on the defensive side of the ball, and regaining that magical pass rush have moved to the forefront of the consciousness for the Giants over the offseason thus far.

For once in his career, New York quarterback Eli Manning is not the center of attention.

The pressure has always been placed squarely on Manning’s shoulders during his five years with Big Blue. Manning was finally able to thrive under the intense spotlight of the New York media for most of last season after earning MVP honors in the Giants’ 17-14 victory over the previously undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Manning’s performance may not have been exactly what New York fans were looking for in his last game of the 2008 season when the Giants were eliminated by the Eagles in the Divisional Playoffs. Manning went 15-for-29, passing for only 169 yards and two costly interceptions.

Much of the blame for the loss was put on Manning’s shoulders because of his poor play, but since that day, Manning has fallen out of the spotlight in New York.

Some of Manning’s struggles could stem from the fact that his primary target, Plaxico Burress, was suspended for the final four games of the season and released by the team during the offseason.

The drama that went along with Burress’ exit contributed to the absence of Manning from the forefront of the Giants’ offseason talk.

The primary concern for New York is no longer the consistency of their leading man under center, but rather ensuring that Manning has viable targets to throw to when the season begins in September.

Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon were the primary targets for Manning at the end of last season, but things could change when the Giants take the field again.

A trade that would bring Braylon Edwards to New York from the Cleveland Browns seemed imminent around draft day, a move that would have solved most of New York’s problems at the wide receiver position.

Instead, the Giants looked to their own picks to help at wide receiver with Hakeem Nicks, from North Carolina, and Ramses Barden, from Cal Poly.

Perhaps Manning is reveling in his chance to take a backseat for at least the time being. There is no doubt this won’t last once Manning throws his first interception or touchdown pass in the 2009 season.

But for right now, Manning can just sit back and focus on football like he used to before all the craziness of being the starting quarterback for the New York Giants began in his life.


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