Eli Manning may be pushing the "don't worry, we're all good" line of thinking, but Boomer Esiason isn't buying it.
The longtime NFL quarterback-turned-broadcaster has major concerns about Manning's preseason performance, going as far as to say the Giants' two-time Super Bowl championship quarterback looks "disinterested" and "frustrated" as he tries to adapt to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's West Coast offense.
"Quite frankly, I'm very concerned about what I've seen thus far," Esiason, a CBS analyst and WFAN morning co-host, told me Monday at a luncheon in New York. "This should be a smoother transition. This is not the way [the offense] is supposed to look, especially with the emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact. They're not moving the ball, while pretty much everyone else in the NFL is."
Esiason feels for Manning, because he also went through the difficulty of learning a new offense late in his career. In 1995, in Rich Kotite's first season coaching the Jets, Esiason went away from the West Coast system he'd played under Sam Wyche, Bruce Coslet and Pete Carroll, and the results were ugly. He went 2-10 as a starter, missing four games with a concussion, and the Jets finished 3-13.
"There's a real adjustment period, especially for a guy who spent his entire career with this same offense and that's all he knows," Esiason said. "There's a different language. It's a different set of rules, a different way of describing things. You'd like to think a 10-year veteran would know better than, say, Geno Smith learning the Jets' offense last year."
Making matters even worse, Esiason sees a level of exasperation he has never seen from the usually unflappable Manning.
"The thing that's disheartening is that it looks like he's not even interested," Esiason said. "It doesn't look normal to me. It doesn't look right to me. I use the word disinterested. He's frustrated and he's grinding right now. I don't know why, but that shouldn't be the case."
The Giants' first-team offense has been dreadful in the last two preseason games, producing only 134 yards and one TD on 31 plays. Manning is 1-for-9 for 6 yards in those two games. Victor Cruz hasn't caught a pass.
Manning said Monday that, despite the poor numbers, he sees progress in practice and is not worried as the team prepares for its opener in Detroit on Sept. 8.
"I know how things are going in practice and what we are capable of doing," Manning said. "We have improvements to do, for sure, but we have a little time and we'll keep working on things."
Esiason suggests that time is running out.
"We appreciate the humble nature of Eli, but it's no longer time to be humble," Esiason said. "It's time to be an in-your-face, we-have-to-get-this-right quarterback. There has to be a real sense of urgency. I heard it from [Tom] Coughlin after the [Colts] game, but I'm not hearing it from the players.
"I know as a former player how much I hated the preseason and I hated answering questions about the futility that we were dealing with and that things could change when the season started. But that's normally reserved for a quarterback who's been in the system for a while and who might be just having a bad preseason, as opposed to a quarterback who's learning a new system and looks bad in it and the regular season's three weeks away."
Coughlin said he'll consider playing his starters longer in the Giants' final preseason game against the Patriots a week from Thursday if Manning can't get it together against the Jets on Friday night. But if Manning again looks bad against the Jets, Esiason said the poor play almost certainly will carry over into the regular season.
"I was kind of warning Giants fans that there would be some growing pains, but this is ridiculous," he said. "There's no excuse for this right now. They need to get it right, and they need to get it right quickly."
No argument there. Regardless of how much Manning tries to tamp down the sense of panic, there is reason to worry about the Giants' offense. Less than three weeks to go before the opener, they're a mess.