Whenever a machine starts to glitch, when it begins to show signs of misfiring or dysfunction, a group of engineers will get together in a room, figure out the problem and reach a solution. They’ll check all of the connections, go over the programming and make sure all of the moving parts are in sync.
With the Giants, it’s the same for a quarterback.
When Eli Manning falls into a slump, as he has many times throughout his career — most recently in the past few games — it’s time for all of the engineers, er, coaches, to start brainstorming solutions. That’s what’s been happening behind closed doors for the Giants this week.
The group has included Manning himself, head coach Ben McAdoo, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr.
“We’re all in there trying to solve the puzzle,” Sullivan said.
He believes they have.
“I think he’s looked great this week,” Sullivan said of the beleaguered quarterback. “He’s focused, he’s locked in. He’s always going to prepare . . . We’re really excited about where we’re headed. We have great confidence in what he’s going to do for us this Sunday afternoon.
“He’s going to be at his best when his best is needed.”
It’s needed now. The Giants (2-3) have lost three straight games and are in last place in the NFC East. They have scored two touchdowns in the last 10 quarters of play. Manning has only five touchdown passes through the first five games, the fewest since his rookie year in 2004.
And now they face the Ravens, a team that’s had a stout defense for the past two decades and has held Manning to depressingly low numbers. In three career games against Baltimore, Manning has thrown for a combined 330 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating in those three games is 51.0.
Yeah, it’s needed now.
So what goes on inside those meetings focused on mending Manning?
“We’re always taking a hard look at the video,” Sullivan said. “What went wrong? Why did it go wrong? What are things that he as the quarterback has control over and what are things he has no control over?”
And then they talk it out. Bluntly.
“Obviously, we have a long history,” Sullivan said of his relationship with Manning. “He speaks freely and I speak freely . . . We come to conclusions, we look at how we can move forward, how we can make it better, then we put it behind us.”
McAdoo said of the process: “We’re very consistent with the way we prepare . . . You flush last week and you move on to the next week. You put your time and your energy and your focus into the preparation and you don’t listen to the noise out there.”
There has been plenty of noise pertaining to Manning, and although Sullivan said the offense “has been disappointing” and there is “some disappointment that [Manning] has and a lot of people have as far as the last game, the last couple of games,” he was quick to point out that it’s not all on the quarterback.
“There always seems to be one little thing missing,” he said. “You can’t pinpoint one specific area as to the why . . . The quarterback is obviously under the microscope, but there are a lot of reasons. It’s not just a matter of him why he wasn’t successful.”
Getting him running smoothly, though, remains the primary objective of the engineering staff.