INDIANAPOLIS — Ben McAdoo isn’t quite finished breaking down the 2016 season. He still has some work to do before he can come to a full conclusion about why his offense sputtered as it did, why it dropped from the eighth most productive in 2015 to the 25th, why it failed to score 30 or more points in any game.
But on Wednesday the Giants’ coach seemed to put a good deal of the blame on a somewhat surprising target: Eli Manning.
“Turning the ball over 27 times isn’t acceptable,” McAdoo said at the Combine. “We’re fortunate to have the wins that we had turning the ball over the way we turned the ball over. We can’t turn the ball over that way.”
Manning was the culprit on many of those with his 16 interceptions and four lost fumbles.
The quarterback was not the only one in whom McAdoo expressed disappointment. He also made a reference to the many dropped passes that hampered the team throughout the season, particularly in the playoff loss to the Packers, when Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard had untimely miscues.
“We need to handle the ball better, so we need to catch it better than we’ve caught it and we need to handle it in the pocket better,” McAdoo said. “We can’t have it come out. Way too many fumbles.”
As for the theory that Manning was limited by his line, McAdoo wasn’t buying it.
“I think that’s an easy blame, an easy one-liner that you can throw out there and think you have all the answers,” McAdoo said. “I don’t necessarily agree with that. The offensive line, they need to play better, I agree with that. I think Eli needs to do a better job playing with fast feet and he needs to sit on that back foot in the pocket. He’s got to play with fast feet, he has to sit on his back foot and be ready to hitch into a throw.”
The Giants are not the only NFL team asked to function with offensive line issues. McAdoo’s apparent advice to Manning: Deal with it. Figure it out.
“Things aren’t always clean in this league,” he said. “You watch film throughout the league and you’re seeing a lot of dirty pockets.”
McAdoo’s public criticism of Manning comes just a few weeks after general manager Jerry Reese said the Giants would start to look for an eventual replacement for their franchise quarterback (Reese described Manning as being “on the back nine” of his career). It also comes from a location where the Giants will be on the lookout for that quarterback of the future.
“It’s a challenging position to develop,” McAdoo said, “and to find a guy that you can develop is even more challenging.”
For many years, the Giants have had the luxury of brushing quickly past the quarterbacks during their draft prep. This year, though, they’ll be paying much more attention. A few of the ones they’ll likely be looking at for a mid-round pick include Nate Peterman of Pitt and Brad Kaaya of Miami, both of whom ran pro-style offenses. Another is Josh Dobbs of Tennessee, who is more of a mobile quarterback but very smart (he majored in aerospace engineering). They were linked to Cal’s Davis Webb at the Senior Bowl. There is also a possibility that Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer could fall out of the first round.
“This is a good week to really get them on the board a little bit and hear them talk about football in general, fundamentals,” McAdoo said of the quarterbacks in this draft class. “Get a chance to look at their profile, their throwing motion, them dropping a little bit and winging it. See how they do with receivers they haven’t thrown to before, see if they can build chemistry as the workout goes on. See if they have a little bit of rhythm in their body. Having rhythm in your body is important.”
If McAdoo’s dissatisfaction with Manning continues to grow, it could be more important more quickly than anyone might have thought.