The only thing more elusive for Eli Manning than finding open receivers in the red zone this season seems to be his quest for answers to help fix the Giants.
“It’s tough, it’s tough,” Manning said in his weekly WFAN appearance on Tuesday. “It challenges you every day. You try to search for what you can do, what can you do differently or change. Can you prepare different? Can you play different? You’re searching for anything, searching for any answers to help you.”
So far, he and the Giants have come up with few.
The Giants lost to the Falcons on Monday night, 23-20, putting forth yet another exhibition of losing football for a team that has dropped 19 of its last 23 games. This one, like many of the others in recent memory, was littered with missed opportunities in the red zone. The Giants were held to six points in the first 55 minutes of the game despite three trips very deep into Falcons territory. One of them was turned away on an incompletion by Manning on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
It was the third straight game the Giants had at least 400 yards of offense. In those three games the Giants have had 10 red zone possessions and scored only three touchdowns.
Manning said the differences between these past two seasons and the successful ones he had early in his career are “very subtle.” But they’re certainly noticeable, both on the field and off.
“It didn’t seem that hard for some of those other years,” Manning chuckled. “You know it is hard. You always had tough games, but you always seemed to all of a sudden bounce out where you had that game where you just had guys open or the defense had turnovers and you won games with the lead and were able to run out the clock in the fourth quarter. How do we get back to that? It’s funny how it can change when all of a sudden you have a team that is hot and confident and things work out and then you have a team that is just struggling at times and not catching breaks. It’s just not working out on all cylinders to figure out a way to get a win.”
Wistful nostalgia. That can be an early warning symptom of the consideration of retirement.
Not that Manning is at that point yet. And neither are the Giants.
“I think Eli will be our quarterback [after the trade deadline on Oct. 30],” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said on Tuesday. “He has been, and he’ll continue to be here.”
Manning, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, said he hasn’t thought about the possibility of being dealt to another team.
“Hey, this organization is the only team I’ve ever played for and the only thing I know,” he said. “I love the New York Giants. It’s hard to imagine being with another organization.”
As for ending his career with the Giants, he said: “For right now, that’s the mindset.”
That could mean a harsh decision to be made by the Giants and by the quarterback at the end of this season. Manning is no dummy. He understands that the Giants are in a long-term rebuild and at 37 years old he is a short-term quarterback. The end is undoubtedly near for Manning.
His and the team’s search for answers to those much bigger questions may wind up being more difficult still.