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Eli Manning OK with being criticized by Ben McAdoo

Eli Manning of the New York Giants scrambles

Eli Manning of the New York Giants scrambles against the Detroit Lions, who sacked him five times at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 18, 2017, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Mike Stobe

For anyone who thinks Ben McAdoo was out of line for publicly criticizing Eli Manning after Monday night’s 24-10 loss to the Lions, there’s one highly influential person who has no problem with the Giants coach calling out his quarterback.

Manning himself.

“It’s part of being in the NFL,” Manning said Wednesday after a late afternoon practice. “You can’t be sensitive, and I think everyone’s gotten very sensitive — players and everybody. If someone says anything negative about you, or you did something wrong, then you’ve got a problem.”

McAdoo is at the center of his toughest stretch as coach during a shocking 0-2 start, and his public rebuke of Manning for two mistakes has been widely criticized — including by me. It’s highly unusual for an NFL coach to openly second-guess his quarterback, particularly when it’s someone with only 19 games on his resume tweaking a two-time Super Bowl MVP.

Let’s just say McAdoo would have been better served telling Manning privately than at his postgame news conference. Especially after the coach defended left tackle Ereck Flowers and receiver Brandon Marshall for their mistakes.

McAdoo has refused to back down from his criticism of Manning for failing to get a play off in time on fourth-and-goal from the 2 in the third quarter and for a second-quarter interception. He is either unaware of the swirl of controversy over calling out Manning, or else he just doesn’t care.

But McAdoo is lucky to have a guy like Manning as his quarterback, because the 36-year-old passer took a potentially incendiary situation and snuffed out any potential ill will with yet another deft performance at his own news briefing.

“Coach McAdoo and I have a great relationship,” he said.

Manning recounted a conversation with McAdoo when he became the Giants’ offensive coordinator in 2014.

“I told him when he first got here, ‘I enjoy being coached. If I screw something up, let me know. I want to be coached,’ ” Manning said. “So we talked about things, and there’s some things I’ve got to do that I’ve got to be better at.”

Manning was reminded Tom Coughlin, who was as tough and demanding as any coach in NFL history, rarely called out Manning during their 12 seasons together. There were a ton of opportunities, but Coughlin invariably would defend his quarterback, especially in the face of criticism from fans and the media. That’s what a coach is supposed to do — protect his players whenever possible. That’s what McAdoo did with Flowers, who was torched for three sacks Monday, and Marshall, who had two key drops in the fourth quarter, one of which preceded the Lions’ 88-yard punt return that put the game away.

But McAdoo had no problem using the phrase “sloppy quarterback play” about the delay-of-game penalty, and he didn’t mind stating the obvious about the interception, something the quarterback was obviously — and painfully — aware of.

Manning insists there’s no ill will.

“(He) is talking about the interception and the delay of game,” Manning said. “Those are the two plays, those are on the quarterback and always will be. So that’s just part of it.”

It’s a good thing Manning has built up incredibly thick skin in his time with the Giants. To have lasted this long in the toughest market in the country requires a huge dose of self-confidence, and Manning’s ability to withstand criticism at all levels has been a hallmark of a career that will likely end with a Hall of Fame induction.

“He knows I can take it,” Manning said of McAdoo. “If you’ve played 14 years in New York, you’ve been criticized, all right? You can take pretty much whatever they throw at you. So Coach McAdoo and I are on the same page, and anything he says, whether it’s to the media, to me, to the team — it’s all for the better of the team, and I’m OK with it.”

Controversy contained.

At least for now.

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