Steve Spagnuolo said he has no idea why the Giants offense that was stagnant for most of the season came roaring to life on Sunday against the Eagles. But he’d like to see more of it.
“I hope that continues,” the interim head coach said on Monday, a day after Eli Manning threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns and the team scored a season-high 29 points.
To that end, he said he’ll be starting Manning Sunday against the Cardinals in Arizona. As for the rest of the quarterback depth chart? That’s still up in the air.
“We’ll talk about it,” Spagnuolo said of where Geno Smith and rookie Davis Webb will be in that hierarchy during the week of practices and, most importantly, on Sunday afternoon. Most people in the organization would like to get a chance to see Webb on the field before the season ends in two weeks, and to do that the Giants will have to elevate him to the backup job ahead of Smith. Webb has been inactive for all 14 games so far this season.
Spagnuolo said he was not anticipating any changes “as we stand here now” on Monday afternoon, but added he would have talks with offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan regarding the team’s final decision. Spagnuolo has been forthcoming with his quarterback decisions since taking over the interim title, but he also said last week that he’d like to keep some strategic maneuvers in-house as a competitive advantage. The Webb decision might fall into that category.
Manning’s performance on Sunday, while impressive, muddied what could have been an easy way to get Webb on the field. Had Manning and the offense performed as they had been for most of the season, it would have been easy to pull the plug on him and give Webb a shot against the Cardinals. A game halfway across the country on Christmas Eve with a 2-12 record, hardly anyone would have noticed or cared!
Instead, Manning not only made the case for starting this week, but possibly next year.
“I knew I could still throw it and I can play at a high level and run this offense,” Manning said on Monday. That he was able to prove it gives pause, at least, to the idea that he will be a former Giant before the 2018 season begins as well as the theory that the franchise will use what could be its highest draft pick since 1981 on a new quarterback.
With the dust settled from the firing of head coach Ben McAdoo two weeks ago, Sullivan was able to put even more of his own imprint on the offense against the Eagles. That included more uptempo play and more downfield passes.
“It was a full week,” Spagnuolo said. “So, there’s probably some truth to that.”
Those new wrinkles pleased Manning.
“A lot of weeks you have great plans, but I really liked what we had and it just got set up well,” Manning said. He insisted that there was not much that was technically new — “It’s still all of the stuff that’s in the system that we’ve done before,” he said — but it was a departure from the run-first game plans McAdoo was leaning on in the post-Odell Beckham Jr. period of this season.
“We just felt the best way to try to help out the offensive line is to play fast and see if you can slow down some of these pass rushers by playing fast,” Manning said.
It and Manning’s play also sparked something in the entire team.
“I think it’ll help all of the guys,” Spagnuolo said of Manning’s performance. “Anytime your offense is clicking — and certainly it begins with the quarterback, he gets the ball in his hands every snap — I think it’s going to help us going forward.”
For now, Arizona is as forward as Spagnuolo is thinking. Webb, it seems, is beyond his self-imposed horizon.