Eli Manning debacle shows Giant difference in philosophy from Patriots


Eli Manning debacle shows Giant difference in philosophy from Patriots

It’s almost impossible to dislike Eli Manning.

Even though he’s the ultimate child of NFL privilege, even though his daddy pulled strings in 2004 to game a system every other player in the league has to bow to, the mop-topped, Halibut-mouthed Eli is beloved and respected.

There are good reasons for that. He’s a pleasant guy who doesn’t bitch out teammates or coaches, he shoulders blame, plays through pain and has been a big-game assassin. Forty-four of these United States will forever adore him for what he did to the Patriots in Super Bowls 42 and 46. The other six here in New England will always give him grudging respect for those games. New England also keeps its Eli hostility holstered because Eli isn’t Peyton.


As the Patriots march methodically, expectedly to the AFC’s No. 1 seed and a likely appearance in another Super Bowl, the Giants sideshow is a terrific little diversion.

Especially because of the wailing and gnashing of teeth going on among Giants fans. They love Eli because he was the one that made their greatest days as Giants fans happen. Twice. And because of that they treat a once-good (but never great) quarterback like a deity. Eli’s been in the league for 14 years. The Giants made the playoffs six times. Four times they were one-and-done. The other two appearances, they had eight combined wins and a Super Bowl each time.

Eli is the human equivalent of a ticket stub from the greatest concert you ever went to. Just a keepsake from better days.

Know who he reminds me of? Drew Bledsoe with better jewelry.

There wasn’t anything to dislike about Bledsoe -- a tough, productive, reserved, polite leader who was a beacon of dignity on a crumbling franchise.

He also became -- after a flurry of coordinator changes and three years with scatter-brained Pete Carroll -- complacent, average and ripe for the picking.

Too few people realized Bledsoe was part of the problem so -- when he got hurt and his backup played better than Drew ever would have -- the fact Bledsoe was being put out to pasture caused much gnashing of teeth.

This Eli thing is similar but -- if you’re a Giants fan -- there’s no Brady, no Belichick, no hope.

The Giants are quitting on their season. (Don’t believe the John Mara BS about that being a BS allegation -- opting for Geno Smith and Davis Webb is announcing: “We are not trying to win games, everyone!!”) 

They are plunging into the abyss and Eli is being taken behind the barn by a pomade-addicted junior-executive level head coach who will be cramming his personal effects in a cardboard box in less than two months and leaving the Giants forever.

And Ben McAdoo is acting as executioner for Mara, who just keeps reaping karmic rewards for shanking the Patriots throughout Deflategate (as have the Ravens, Colts, Roger Goodell and others who behaved like rodents). What’s amusing is that Mara has so snookered the NY/NJ media with his firm handshake, and look-you-in-the-eye, call-you-by-your-first-name manners that he was at first seen as merely having signed off on test-driving the other quarterbacks. It actually was his idea.

And it’s deliciously backfired to the point where Giants fans want a parade for Eli down the Canyon of Heroes and Mara will probably try to make it happen.

Meanwhile, 200 miles to the north, the Giants' former defensive coordinator could part with a quarterback like Tom Brady -- who would make better decisions after downing a fifth of gin than Eli often did -- and a wide swath of the region would grudgingly say, “OK . . . ” when Belichick says he’s “Trying to do what’s best for the football team.”

We are by now conditioned to Belichick throwing cold water on the masses with outrageous personnel moves that work. We just nod and shuffle forward en masse toward another postseason that ends with the Patriots in position to raise a Lombardi Trophy.

Down in New York, they are rending garments because of two February Sundays in the past decade. Sentimental fools.


With Butler's departure inevitable, Patriots' corner search is on

With Butler's departure inevitable, Patriots' corner search is on

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today, we're looking at the position group that received more attention than any other during Super Bowl 52: Cornerback. 



No single position group experienced as many dips, climbs and dives as Patriots corners did during their rollercoaster season. In September alone, the communication was a mess, Malcolm Butler got benched, Stephon Gilmore got benched, and Eric Rowe suffered a serious groin injury that allowed Gilmore to quickly get his job back. Second-year special teams standout Jonathan Jones might've been the team's best cover man at that juncture. Then, as soon as Gilmore started to find his footing, he was diagnosed with a concussion. The group started to put it together in the second half with solid performances against the Raiders in Mexico City and the Bills in Buffalo. Gilmore was particularly strong as the season wore on, showing the man-to-man cover skills and the knack for getting his hands on footballs that made him one of the highest-paid players at his position last offseason. But in the end, in the Super Bowl, with Butler benched again, the group (outside of Gilmore, who played well against Philly) had too many letdowns in what was arguably the team's worst defensive performance of the season.

Gilmore, Rowe, Jones, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz

Butler, Johnson Bademosi


The Patriots played Rowe in prominent roles in each of the past two Super Bowls and he seems to be first in line to take over No. 2 duties with Butler certainly headed on to a new chapter in his career. Jonathan Jones showed in spurts that he could be an effective slot corner, but he suffered a season-ending injury in the Divisional Round and it's unclear what the Patriots will be expecting from him in 2018. Cyrus Jones is coming off of a torn ACL, and even before his injury, it looked like he may have a hard time cracking the regular rotation. This is one position -  like tackle  - that the Patriots don't want to be left thin. If we had to rank it, the need for another capable body would probably come in at about a 7 out of 10. 


There are a handful of relatively big names who will be on the market come March, including Butler. Trumaine Johnson of the Rams figures to be at the top of the class. Vontae Davis of the Colts is 29 and often injured, but in a corner-needy league, he shouldn't have much trouble finding a team. EJ Gains of the Bills could leverage his inside-out versatility to come away with a deal worth almost $10 million per year. Aaron Colvin of the Jaguars, Patrick Robinson of the Eagles, Nickell Robey-Coleman of the Rams and Leonard Johnson of the Bills give teams in need of slot help some options. Kyle Fuller of the Bears and Morris Claiborne of the Jets are two former first-rounders who've had up-and-down careers but showed last season they have still value on the outside. 


It feels like the best athletes at the high school and college levels are getting smarter. Or their coaches are. Once again, there's a deep group of athletes peppering the incoming draft class at corner, which is, of course, one of the highest-paying positions in football. (Why so many top-tier athletes are still playing running back, on the other hand, is beyond me.) Alabama's hybrid star in the secondary Minkah Fitzpatrick will be long gone by the time the Patriots pick. Same goes for Ohio State's undersized burner Denzel Ward and Iowa's ball-hawking 6-foot-1 cover man Josh Jackson, in all likelihood. At the bottom of the first round, though, players like Auburn's Carlton Davis (who has drawn comparisons to Richard Sherman because of his length and ball skills) and Colorado's Isaiah Oliver (a one-time Pac-12 decathlete with a 6-foot-1 frame) could be available. Would the Patriots want to invest a first-round pick at that spot? If they feel like they have good depth at the position already on the roster but want to take a flier on a mid-round selection, they could hope Louisville's Jaire Alexander (who dealt with injuries in 2017 that will probably hurt his draft stock) lasts into the third round. 


One name that's sort of intriguing on the free-agency market is Davis'. You've heard tales similar players ending up in New England before. He's spent the majority of his career without much of a shot at a title - though his Colts made the AFC Championship Game in the 2014 season. He should be low-cost. He had season-ending groin surgery last year, was released in November and went unclaimed. He'll be 30 before the start of next season, but he may be worth a roll of the dice to help a relatively young Patriots secondary. If he doesn't pan out, no harm done. Hard to envision Belichick and Nick Caserio investing big money into this position with Gilmore on the roster, but maybe they'll deem one of the free-agent slot options worth a shot if he's cost-effective. Otherwise, the Patriots may try to take advantage of a draft that seems - at least right now - as if it's deeper at corner than it is at some other spots on the defensive side of the ball, like on the edge.



Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

File Photo

Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

James Harrison was a larger than life figure during his time in Pittsburgh. 

It was as if God molded him to be a member of the Steelers: massive, physical, and an absolute bruiser.

But at the end of the day he is a football player. And athletes in this sport don't particuarly like time on the bench.

Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers organization were reminded of this fact in a very harsh manner.

At the end of the December, Harrison made a late season move to sign with the Patriots. It left his former teammates in Pittsburgh frustrated, and his former fans confused.

But at the end of the day he just wanted to be on the football field again. And that's exactly where Belichick put him.

Harrison had the opportunity to appear in many more situations, and had several sacks at the end of the season.

Now there is a new report from Christopher Price of the Boston Sports Journal that he could re-sign with the Patriots in 2018.

A source close to Price and Harrison said "there's a reasonable chance" that he could be on the roster next year.

He will be playing this upcoming season at age 40, and has previously stated he'd like to play one or two more seasons.