Eli Manning

Savoring the truly awful 2017 New York Giants season

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Savoring the truly awful 2017 New York Giants season

Every week this season we’ve taken a look at how the Eagles NFC East rivals have been doing… and for the most part, it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, like listening to a great love song or eating a box of Cheez-Its. Alas, like that box of delicious cheesy crackers, our time enjoying the demise of the Giants, Cowboys, and Washington has come to an end. At least for this season.

Without further ado, here’s a look back at what happened, and what’ll be happening, in the NFC East. Up first, the G-Men.

New York Giants (3-13)

2017 Headline: “Welp, That Was Unexpected”

What Happened: Y’know how in a cheeky comedy movie when everything seems to be going wrong, one of the characters will throw up their hands and yells “WELP, IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE!,” which promptly triggers a thunderstorm or a vehicle malfunction or a flock of pigeons delivering digestional deposits everywhere? That was essentially the 2017 New York Giants, with each calamity seemingly one-upping the next for eighteen consecutive weeks.

After an off-season that was inexplicably filled with Super Bowl expectations, the Giants dropped their first two games by a combined score of 43 to 13. Both the teams they lost to would end up missing the playoffs, and that was pretty much the high-water mark on the year, all things considered.

The Giants then went into Philly and ended up losing on a 61-yard field goal by Jake Elliott, a guy who at the time at the time might as well have been a Temple undergrad. The G-Men ended up losing their first five games, and it was that fifth defeat that saw Odell Beckham Jr. carted off with a leg injury that would end his (and essentially, the Giants) season.

That’s when the fun really started.

Following a Week 12 loss to NFC East rival Washington that dropped the deflated GMen to 2-9, then-Head Coach Ben McAdoo announced he would be benching longtime-mediocrity Eli Manning, ending his consecutive start streak at 210 games. McAdoo, presumably in an effort to save his own job, turned to Geno Smith, which was about as thought-out as Daniel Hillard thinking that cross-dressing and pretending to be a British nanny was the best way to win his family’s trust back. 

John Mara (who lets not forget, wouldn’t even cut suspended domestic-abusing kicker Josh Brown until there was massive fan backlash) fired McAdoo the week after in the wake of massive fan backlash. That was the second-least surprising moment of the season, the first being the whole Geno-Couldn’t-Save-His-Coaches-Job thing. Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo promptly put the 37-year-old Eli (it’s actually his birthday today!) back in the starting line-up, and the Giants would go on to lose three of their remaining four. #TrustTheProcess.

Through it all, the New York locker-room had more palace intrigue than the Trump White House, as seemingly every member of the Giants secondary got suspended at one point or another. The teams 2015 second-round pick Landon Collins even called 2016 first-round pick Eli Apple a cancer, then backtracked a few days later, which presumably makes everything hunky-dory. This is fine

After a short search, the Giants hired former Giants employee Dave Gettleman to be the next General Manager of the Giants, a team he worked for for over fifteen years but never got a chance to run previously. Gettleman has already come out and said he expects Eli to be with the team in 2018, and he plans to pair the 37-year-old ManBoy with some head coaching re-tread like Jim Schwartz or Pat Shurmur. CONSPIRACY THEORY ALERT: Gettleman is only interviewing Schwartz this week to take his time away from game-planning for the Birds playoff game. FIRE SCHWARTZ, HE’S A DOUBLE AGENT!!!

One last quick note on Eli’s streak; it was the second-longest streak in NFL history, to Brett Favre’s of 297. Favre’s Packers, meanwhile, went 4-12 in 2005, a season just as miserable as this last one for Big Blue. They also went 6-10 in 2008. At no point did they even think of benching the Wrangler Jean Man, and they had Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings both those seasons. Ritchie Kotite couldn’t have bungled this thing as badly as McAdoo did, even if rain had gotten on the play chart.

Eli (who lets never forgot, pouted his way to New York when the Chargers drafted him in 2004) may have the charisma of a dried-up starfish and be more overrated than the the new Star Wars movie (91% on Rotten Tomatoes!?), but the way his streak ended was about as poetic as that screaming goat in the Taylor Swift video…. just ten times funnier.

Positive Spin: It’s hard to imagine many Giants fans were clamoring for change before the season started, considering half of Jersey was booking flights to Minnesota before Week 1. However any Giants fan who can be honest with themselves will admit this team has been heading in a bad direction for awhile.

Remember when Ruben Amaro Jr. hired Ryne Sandberg to hang-out-with-but-eventually replace Charlie Manuel, and it was super-awkward and resulted in a situation as uncomfortable as a wet sock? That’s essentially what GM Jerry Reese tried to do with Ben McAdoo and Tom Coughlin, and unfortunately for Reese, the NFL doesn’t have an equivalent of the First Base Coach job for him to fall back on. The results, perhaps predictably, haven’t panned out, with the biggest bummer being we didn’t get any photos of Coughlin taking his hoagie and going home

I wrote last week about the compiling mistakes under Reese’s leadership, the example given being a first-round pick being spent on Apple because previous first-round pick Prince Amukamara hadn’t worked out (and as a result, over $25 million being invested in veterans Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins). Reese has also spent heavily in free agency with mixed results (Jenkins and Olivier Vernon weren’t so hot in year two, and Brandon Marshall was a complete waste), and the complete neglect of the offensive line would make Chip Kelly blush. Despite two Super Bowl wins that almost seem accidental in hindsight and a QB he could consistently trot out for the past 14-years, Reese never built a roster that was truly feared throughout the NFL. Not once.

The Reese Era is over now, and even though Gettleman comes from the same tree, he’s a leaf of his own. Expect the Giants to head in a different direction in 2018, even if the new boss is saying publicly he intends to take the same route as the old boss.

Negative Spin: Here’s my take on the team two weeks ago:

“This team has no head coach, no general manager, no long-term answer at quarterback, no offensive line, no healthy wide receivers, no running backs, and no one outside of Landon Collins that’s young and exciting on defense. The only good thing that came out of this season is tight end Evan Engram and the exodus of Jerry Reese and the coach he hired. Odell Beckham’s return next year alone should put them over two wins, but they still have a huge number of over-priced veterans on defense who are about as interested in being a part of a rebuild as I am in an all-male reboot of HBO’s “‘Girls.’”

The only thing that’s changed is now they have a general manager. Oh, and both Collins and Engram got hurt.

What’s Next: Unless Gettleman is full of it, it’ll be up to Eli to decide whether he wants to come back or not in 2018. Remember, it was Peyton who asked out of Indy, and seeing Eli do the same  (which seemed a foregone conclusion just a few weeks ago) is almost guaranteed if the GMen use the second overall draft pick on a QB. 

However the bigger story in 2018 will be Odell Beckham, coming off a major injury but playing on the final year of his deal. Couple that with the fact that Dallas may be looking to part ways with Dez Bryant (and potentially sign a big-money upgrade to pair with Dak and Zeke), and there could be some very intense inter-division tampering over the next calendar year.

Check back tomorrow for Washington and Friday for Dallas.

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Giants

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Giants


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Nick Foles was way better than expected, the defense was worse than expected and the Eagles somehow escaped the Meadowlands Sunday with a way-too-close 34-29 win over the Giants (see breakdown).

With the win, the Eagles clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs, their first since 2004.

It sure wasn't pretty. But that first-round bye will be. 

While we all catch our collective breath, here are 10 instant observations from the Eagles' 12th win of the year.

1. Nick Foles showed a little rust early but ultimately did everything you would want your quarterback to do. Moved the ball, got the offense in the end zone, managed the offense, avoided mistakes. In his first start in 14 months and first start in an Eagles uniform in more than three years, Foles threw four TDs on the road, and that's darn impressive. I really felt good about Foles going into Sunday. He's a good, solid QB, and other than a few bad games on a terrible Rams team in 2015, he's always been a good, solid quarterback. But he was actually better than I expected. He finished 24 for 38 for 237 yards and the four TDs, no INTs and a 115.8 passer rating (see report card). What I was most impressed with was how Foles kept his composure early, when the Giants had that two-TD lead and nothing was going right for the Eagles. This is a guy who hasn't played much football lately, but he was calm and poised in the face of adversity. On the road, down 13 points, nothing going right. Impressive afternoon for Foles.

2. On the other hand? This was an absolutely embarrassing performance by the Eagles' defense against one of the NFL's worst offenses, a team that just fired its coach, a team with a lame-duck interim coach, a team with nothing to play for, a team with the third-worst offense in the NFL. Pathetic. Forget who's playing quarterback for the Eagles, if the defense doesn't get its act together soon, the Eagles' postseason run is going to be a very short one. This is three straight games now where their tackling has been poor, they've allowed big plays and they've been unable to keep an opponent out of the end zone. After allowing just 18 touchdowns in their first 11 games, they've now given up 10 in their last three. For crying out loud, the Giants came into the game averaging 14 points on offense, and they scored three TDs on their first 26 plays and laid 29 points on the Eagles. Are they worn out? Are they being exposed by better, more experienced quarterbacks? Are they just getting away from basics, like tackling and coverage? Whatever the answer, Jim Schwartz has to get this solved very, very soon.

3. A couple numbers to ponder: Eli Manning, benched just a few weeks ago, threw for 434 yards, the second-most yards ever against the Eagles (Jon Kitna once had 446 for the Lions in a 2007 Eagles blowout win). And the Giants netted 504 yards. This is one of the worst offenses in the NFL! It just seemed like there were Giants open 8 to 12 yards down the field on every play, and nothing ever changed. The Eagles were really, really fortunate to escape North Jersey with a win.

4. I have to say I'm just not in love with the Eagles' running back rotation right now. It just seems too hard for any of the Eagles' four backs to get into any sort of rhythm right now. Early in the year, the way the offense was operating, they were all getting enough carries to kind of get going individually, but in close games, when the Eagles are scrambling on offense, it just seems that the rotation is hurting the offense's rhythm. Kenjon Barner had an 18-yard run at the start of the second quarter, then didn't get another carry. LeGarrette Blount gets the ball on a crucial 4th-and-1 midway through the second quarter, but it's only his second carry of the game and the play goes nowhere. Corey Clement runs for 10 yards midway through the first quarter and doesn't get another carry in the next five drives. Jay Ajayi? I've been saying since about the second game he played in an Eagles uniform he should be this team's lead back, but after gaining four yards on his first carry of the game, only five of the next 14 running back handoffs went his way. His next carry? That went 22 yards for a first down. Ajayi had only 12 carries Sunday and that's not enough. He needs to carry the bulk of the load. Has to.

5. I can't think of a more dramatic transformation in Philadelphia sports history than what we've seen this year from Nelson Agholor. It's flat-out remarkable, and that kid deserves so much credit for never making excuses and just working his ass off during the offseason and hammering himself into a legit NFL wide receiver. That insane third-quarter touchdown catch on the heels of his 141-yard game in L.A. last weekend … that's big-time stuff right there. 

6. Howie Roseman has to do everything imaginable to make sure the Eagles don't lose Trey Burton. That kid can play.

7. Impressive day for Zach Ertz, especially that 15-yard catch and run down the right sideline for a huge late first down. Ertz didn't have huge numbers — 7 for 59 with a touchdown — but his history with Foles really showed up. They were together in 2013 and 2014, and you can tell Foles loves having him out there.

8. I'm trying to figure out Ronald Darby. Played awful much of the game, but he did have that huge interception and big return, and then he made an enormous play in the end zone in the final minute, knocking away a potential Manning touchdown pass to Roger Lewis. One thing is for sure — the kid has talent. Another is for sure — he has to be more consistent.

9. With all due respect to Fletcher Cox, sometimes I really believe Brandon Graham is this team's defensive MVP. He was very good once again Sunday, extending his career high in sacks to 9½ and also making a huge play in the fourth quarter, throwing Shane Vereen for a nine-yard loss on a drive that ultimately ended with the Eagles' blocking a field goal. On a day when most of the guys around struggled, Graham continued his brilliant play. He was there when the Eagles needed him the most.

10. The left side of the offensive line was everybody's biggest concern going in, and while Chance Warmack and Halapoulivati Vaitai aren't going to pick up any late Pro Bowl votes for their performances, they hung in there enough, protecting the blind side of a quarterback making his first start in 14 months. Foles didn't always have a ton of time, but he was only sacked once — that was on Big V and caused a fumble (that the Eagles recovered). The Eagles scored 34 points with those guys. Could have been worse. Could have been a lot worse.

NFL Notes: Commissioner Roger Goodell signs 5-year extension

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NFL Notes: Commissioner Roger Goodell signs 5-year extension

NEW YORK -- Roger Goodell has signed a five-year contract extension to remain commissioner of the NFL through 2024.

A memo from the NFL's compensation committee to team owners and obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press confirms that Goodell and committee chairman Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, have signed the extension.

That extension has been a source of controversy because Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones objected to the process.

All 32 owners approved in May the compensation committee's power to negotiate and sign a deal with Goodell, who replaced Paul Tagliabue in 2006.

Since then, the league's total revenues have more than doubled to over $13 billion (see full story).

Giants: Manning back as starting quarterback
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning is back as the New York Giants' starting quarterback.

A week after being benched by former coach Ben McAdoo, Manning was put back into the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys by interim coach Steve Spagnuolo.

"My gut right now says Eli should be the starter," Spagnuolo said in explaining the move after practice Wednesday.

The 36-year-old Manning was told of the decision on Tuesday. He had walked into Spagnuolo's office on Monday after McAdoo was fired and told the former defensive coordinator that he wanted to start again.

"It's important to play, that's what I love to do," Manning said after practice. "I love to play quarterback and I love to play quarterback for the New York Giants. So that's what I will work on" (see full story).

Chiefs: Team suspends CB Peters 1 game
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Marcus Peters chucked an official's flag into the stands, stalked off the field wearing a smile, then ran back onto it without wearing socks when he realized he hadn't been ejected.

Well, he won't have to worry about socks on Sunday.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid suspended the volatile young cornerback for their game against Oakland after a series of antics that have humiliated not only Peters but the entire organization.

The latest came in last week's loss to the New York Jets, when a late penalty was called and Peters picked up the flag and flung it into the stands . Peters proceeded to leave the field, assuming that he'd been kicked out of the game, and was evidently undressing when he realized his mistake.

So Peters ran back onto the sideline without wearing socks, only to watch the Chiefs' last-ditch drive fall short in a 38-31 loss -- their sixth in the last seven games.

"I've done a lot of thinking and come to the conclusion I'm going to suspend him for this game," Reid said after Wednesday morning's walkthrough. "I'm not going to get into detail on it. I did have the opportunity to talk to Marcus and some of the players, and I've got a good locker room. I fully trust them. We'll be OK there. So that's where I'm at" (see full story).

Steelers: Team rallying around injured Shazier
PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Shazier's locker sat untouched in a corner of the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room Wednesday except for one little piece: his yellow No. 50 practice jersey, which found its way into the hands and over the shoulders of good friend and fellow inside linebacker Vince Williams.

While Williams and the rest of Shazier's teammates tried to go about the business of preparing for a visit from Baltimore on Sunday that could clinch Pittsburgh's third AFC North title in four years, Shazier spent the day being transported from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh to undergo further testing on a spinal injury that left his future murky and his teammates shaken.

"I think it's just weird without 50 here," rookie outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. "He's the heart and soul of this defense. He's the quarterback. It's just different not having him here in meetings and out there in practices. It's weird."

Pittsburgh signed Sean Spence, who spent three seasons with the Steelers after being taken in the third round of the 2012 draft, to fill Shazier's spot on the roster.

Tyler Matakevich could start in Shazier's spot against the Ravens if his aching left shoulder comes around in time.