Man­ning’s strug­gling, Beck­ham’s em­bar­rass­ing ... and the Giants are a mess

Waterloo Region Record - - Sports - MARK MASKE

What’s worse at this point: Eli Man­ning’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing play or Odell Beck­ham Jr.’s im­ma­ture be­hav­iour?

It’s a very close call, which tells you just about all that you need to know about the cur­rent state of the New York Giants.

The Giants’ sea­son is in ru­ins. That be­came ev­i­dent Thurs­day night at the Mead­ow­lands. The Philadel­phia Ea­gles got well. The Giants didn’t, as their record dropped to 1-5 with a dreary 34-13 loss to the Ea­gles.

It’s dif­fi­cult to be non­com­pet­i­tive in this sea­son’s NFC East, not to be mis­taken for the rugged di­vi­sion of its glory days — or even for last sea­son’s ver­sion, which pro­duced a Su­per Bowl win­ner in the Ea­gles.

But the Giants have man­aged it. They are a mess.

“We didn’t do any­thing well enough to win,” coach Pat Shur­mur said at his postgame news con­fer­ence Thurs­day.

They fell apart last sea­son, go­ing 3-13 on the heels of reach­ing the NFC play­offs in 2016. Ben McA­doo made an un­forced pub­lic re­la­tions er­ror by bench­ing Man­ning late in the lost sea­son, end­ing Man­ning’s lengthy con­sec­u­tive games streak and un­nec­es­sar­ily hu­mil­i­at­ing an all­time fran­chise great who won two Su­per Bowls for the team. The Giants un­did that mis­take, giv­ing the start­ing job right back to Man­ning and then per­form­ing an or­ga­ni­za­tional house­clean­ing in which McA­doo was fired as coach and Jerry Reese was dis­missed as gen­eral man­ager.

Surely things would be bet­ter this sea­son with the new brain trust of Dave Get­tle­man as the GM and Shur­mur as the coach.

Not so much.

The team’s new de­ci­sion-mak­ers took a ma­jor gam­ble by bet­ting that they could have suc­cess in what’s left of Man­ning’s ten­ure with the fran­chise. The Giants could have taken a quar­ter­back — Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Josh Rosen — with the No. 2 over­all se­lec­tion in the NFL draft. They didn’t. They went with run­ning back Saquon Barkley. The Giants fig­ured that the pres­ence of Barkley and the happiness of Beck­ham, signed to a new con­tract to make him the NFL’s high­est-paid wide re­ceiver, would change the equa­tion for the 37-year-old Man­ning.

It hasn’t worked.

Last sea­son, Man­ning de­served bet­ter from the Giants.

This sea­son, it’s rapidly reach­ing the point at which the Giants de­serve bet­ter from Man­ning.

Yes, his of­fen­sive line is bad. But by now, it’s clear that Man­ning’s play is part of the prob­lem. The foot­ball sim­ply does not ar­rive to re­ceivers on time or on tar­get. Man­ning too of­ten set­tles for short check-down passes on plays in which he might be able to buy him­self some time to de­liver a throw down the field. A Fox cam­era ap­peared to show Shur­mur say­ing, “throw the ball” on the side­line fol­low­ing one firsthalf play Thurs­day night.

Charley Casserly, the for­mer GM of the Washington Redskins and Hous­ton Tex­ans, wrote on Twit­ter dur­ing the first half: “Seems to me Eli was bail­ing out of there in­stead of stand­ing in there.”

Barkley is tremen­dous. He had 130 rush­ing yards and 99 re­ceiv­ing yards Thurs­day. He turned one screen pass from Man­ning into a daz­zling 55-yard catch and run. But that doesn’t mean that the Giants nec­es­sar­ily were right to by­pass a quar­ter­back with the No. 2 choice.

What do the Giants do now? There is no vi­able al­ter­na­tive on a ros­ter that in­cludes backup Alex Tan­ney and rookie third­stringer Kyle Lauletta. An­other lofty draft choice could be in the off­ing next year. But will that quar­ter­back be as promis­ing as Darnold?

The other is­sue is whether the Giants might be hav­ing buyer’s re­morse about the Beck­ham deal. His tal­ent is un­de­ni­able. It’s not only the other­worldly catches; he has been con­sis­tently pro­duc­tive in the NFL.

But he also has been per­sis­tently im­ma­ture. That con­tin­ued Thurs­day night when Beck­ham was shown on cam­era head­but­ting and punch­ing a large fan on the Giants’ side­line.

He left the field with time re­main­ing on the clock in the first half. He re­port­edly re­turned to the side­line af­ter the sec­ond half had be­gun. Shur­mur said af­ter the game that Beck­ham went to the locker room to re­ceive an IV.

He is be­ing paid not only to be a great player but also, at this point in his ca­reer, to be a team leader and a pro­fes­sional. Pas­sion for the game is fine. But it’s time that Beck­ham learns how to prop­erly chan­nel it.

Noth­ing that he said dur­ing his ESPN in­ter­view last week­end, with Lil Wayne seated at his side, was off base. The Giants’ of­fen­sive scheme should be ques­tioned. Man­ning’s play should be scru­ti­nized. But Beck­ham shouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be the one to do it, not by call­ing out in­di­vid­u­als on na­tional TV. The Giants re­acted by fin­ing Beck­ham, Fox re­ported Thurs­day.

It’s stun­ning that it has got­ten this bad, this fast, in the new sea­son for the Giants.

And there’s lit­tle to no rea­son to believe that it will get bet­ter from here.

BILL KOSTROUN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Philadel­phia Ea­gles' Nigel Brad­ham sacks New York Giants quar­ter­back Eli Man­ning dur­ing the sec­ond half of Thurs­day’s NFL foot­ball game.

STEVEN RYAN GETTY IMAGES

Odell Beck­ham of the New York Giants looks for a pass in­ter­fer­ence call from the of­fi­cial dur­ing Thurs­day’s loss to the Philadel­phia Ea­gles.

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