If you’ve been around Eli Manning for any amount of time, you know he will not surrender to the notion that he can no longer do his job.
There may come a day when that happens, when he realizes his time as the Giants’ quarterback is at an end.
But that time is not now.
Not even after another subpar effort in what turned into the Giants’ worst loss of the season.
Manning couldn’t muster much of an offense throughout the Giants’ 34-13 loss to the Eagles on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium, and the result was worse than anyone could have expected from a team coming off its most hopeful offensive performance of the season.
The Giants were eviscerated by the defending Super Bowl champions, and Manning displayed further signs of deterioration through most of the game. He was 24-for-43 for 281 yards, no touchdowns and a killer of an interception on the team’s first series. The Giants were a miserable 4-for-14 on third downs, and were it not for the individual heroics of rookie running back Saquon Barkley, the offense would have been a complete embarrassment.
Even so, at age 37, Manning still believes in himself.
“My confidence in myself is good,” he said. “I know I can play. It’s just a matter of we got to figure out how to be more consistent and be better on offense.”
The fact is they are woefully bad on offense. Yes, they came alive in a 33-31 loss to the Panthers, who won last Sunday on Graham Gano’s 63-yard field goal with one second remaining after the Giants had taken the lead. But on Thursday night, with a chance to play their way into the divisional race with a statement win over the Eagles, the Giants flopped instead.
Manning could do little to change the narrative. He was under duress from the Eagles’ defense, which overpowered the Giants’ rebuilt offensive line on far too many occasions. But Manning also was just plain ineffective, too often settling for checkdown passes to his backs and receivers and unwilling to go deep consistently. On most of the occasions that he did throw down the field, his passes were way off target.
It was a muted game for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who created plenty of controversy with his comments in a Sunday interview with ESPN. And while he deserves to be criticized for not supporting his teammates and coaches — he reportedly was fined by the team for his remarks — there is plenty of truth in Beckham’s uncertainty about whether Manning is part of the problem on the Giants’ offense.
The fact is that Manning absolutely is part of the problem. But he will not allow himself to believe he can’t turn things around. It’s in his DNA to remain relentlessly optimistic about his chances, and that will remain the case until he’s done in this league.
He will admit, however, to being shocked that the Giants have a 1-5 record after six games for the second straight year.
“I felt good about our team [coming into the season],” he said. “I still feel good about our squad and our team and what we have. We lose a heartbreaker last week, and tonight, we didn’t play well enough. Every game has been tight, has been close, except this one. You’re going to have your opportunities. You just have to figure out a way to put it together.”
It’s almost too late for that. Even in a division in which no team is above .500, the Giants simply aren’t good enough right now. And they might not be good enough next week or the week after. As they found out last year, these things can spiral out of control quickly. It could happen again.
If it does, this will be it for Manning, who was greeted with a smattering of boos after a handful of series and poor throws. For a two-time Super Bowl MVP who has been the greatest quarterback in franchise history, that’s not something to which he’s accustomed.
But he understands why it’s happening.
“Hey, we got to play better football, I understand that,” he said. “We’ve got to find ways to be in better situations and move the ball and be a more explosive offense and a better team.”
At 1-5, they’re almost out of time.