There has been no win-or-else edict delivered to Eli Manning, at least not such an explicit mandate from Giants coach Pat Shurmur.
Yet Shurmur’s nuanced answers in recent days about just how much longer he plans to stick with Manning make it obvious that even the greatest quarterback in franchise history has no guarantees moving forward.
In true Manning fashion, though, the 37-year-old quarterback didn’t flinch – at least not outwardly – when the subject was brought up during Thursday’s media session at his locker.
“You worry about this week,” Manning said. “We got the 49ers. I got a job to do, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
You would not have expected anything else from a quarterback who has taken the idea of an even-keeled personality to a new level; regardless of the circumstances, Manning’s default reaction is always the same: a shrug.
Not that his outward demeanor should be taken as indifference. No, Manning is passionately devoted to his craft, and even with the Giants at 1-7 and him being battered by opposing defenses like never before in his career, he remains committed to finding solutions and getting a win.
“I think there’s urgency to get things going, for sure,” he said. “We got to get some wins. We got to get going, and everybody wants it. The team needs it, for morale and just the hard work and everything we put in. Just need to reap the benefits of the work and feel good about what we’re doing.”
Shurmur has given Manning a reprieve – for now, at least – and while it may have been advantageous to put Kyle Lauletta into the lineup now, the rookie quarterback’s arrest last week for several traffic-related offenses may have scuttled those plans in the short term. That leaves Manning essentially playing on a week-to-week basis, which makes for a highly awkward situation for a two-time Super Bowl MVP who is almost certainly in his final days as the Giants’ starter.
But just as he has tuned out distractions throughout his career, Manning is doing the same now, even as speculation continues to mount that he is near the end of his run in New York. He said he feels physically refreshed after a bye week and was encouraged by a conversation over the weekend with Shurmur.
“Just get ready for the second half,” Manning said of his discussion with the coach. “Go play well. We need to improve. Everybody needs to improve and get going, but I do feel like we’re close. We just got to score some more points.”
Easier – much, much easier – said than done.
The Giants have the 20th-ranked offense in terms of yards, averaging 353.2 per game. But in the most important category of all – points scored – they’re 27th overall. They’re scoring an average of just 18.2 points per game, roughly half the total of the league-leading Chiefs (36.3).
The problems go far deeper than Manning, who has just eight touchdown passes and is on pace for the lowest total of his career over a full season. The Giants’ offensive line play has been brutal; Manning is on pace to be sacked 62 times, by far the highest total of his career. Manning’s lack of mobility doesn’t help, leaving him as a sitting duck on many plays when the blocking breaks down.
Shurmur wants Manning to be mindful of the basics.
“Stick with the progressions, get the ball out on time, understand all the situational football,” Shurmur said. “He’s done this at a high level for a very long time. He’s like everybody on the team. There’s areas where he can improve.”
Precisely how many more opportunities he gets to show improvement remains to be seen. The most likely answer: not many.