When Eli Manning turns to his brother Peyton, it’s not for advice on dealing publicly with losing, or mechanical issues, or even how to handle unflattering comments from teammates (as if anyone ever spoke out about Peyton the way Odell Beckham Jr. did about Eli). No, when the Brothers Manning chat about the 2018 season, they usually fall back to one topic.
“I talk to my brother a bunch,” Eli Manning said on Wednesday. “He knows what it’s like going into a new offense and how it can take time to just get everybody going and everybody on the same page.”
Having an old quarterback isn’t the only issue facing the Giants these days. The new offense, a system that Pat Shurmur brought with him as head coach this offseason, has been slow to click. During the spring and summer, Giants players — including Eli Manning — were optimistic about the new playbook. Manning said a few times that Shurmur’s system “makes sense.”
Getting it to make points out on the field in the regular season, though, has been a grind. It’s one of the reasons why Shurmur and others continue to say that the Giants are “close.” Not that they’re close necessarily on the scoreboard, but close to having the offense come to life.
Manning, speaking at the launch of the online game “Financial Football” for Visa at MetLife Stadium, said he has a good feel for the offense.
“We’ve done good things,” he said. “We’re not having mistakes. We’re picking up blitzes and picking up a lot of things and making calls and getting to good plays. It’s just a matter of everybody being on the same page and playing that much better. Just be a little bit more consistent.”
This isn’t the first time Manning has had to learn a new system. In 2014, he was introduced to Ben McAdoo’s offense after a decade (and two Super Bowls) with Kevin Gilbride’s system. Those Giants sputtered, too, scoring just 14 points in each of the first two games. They averaged 25.1 points per game in their next 14.
It was during that season that then-Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said: “I've never tried to judge a quarterback in a new offense until Week 8.”
Arians, who went through a similar change with Carson Palmer in Arizona in 2013, said it took half the season for things to come together.
“And then all of a sudden you could see the guys around him start to get it and play faster and play better," Arians said. “Instead of waiting to see a guy come open, he was throwing guys open. When you're waiting to see a guy come open, you're going to throw interceptions because your eyes are there too soon and too long. When you can throw the ball on time, trust the receiver is going to be there, everything happens a second or a second and a half faster. That's a lot of time when you're talking about the passing game."
As for Peyton Manning, when he changed systems in 2015 with the Broncos, the offense averaged just 22.7 points per game in his nine regular-season starts. They did win the Super Bowl that year, but more on the strength of a dominant defense than the play of the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“When you have new guys and new players all learning a new system it just takes time to gel,” Eli Manning said. “It’s just a matter of everybody just keep doing things a little better. Just making small improvements around a bunch of areas and we’ll be OK.”
The Giants' coaches and management all have said that they have faith that Manning will be able to revive the team from its current state of scoring stagnation. And despite some reports to the contrary and Beckham’s interview earlier this month, many players do too.
“I have total faith in Eli,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “I haven’t heard that once in this locker room, I haven’t heard that from any individual player, so that’s just outside noise and stuff trying to break us apart. We’re doing a good job of keeping everything together in here. As far as in the locker room, we have total faith in him. We picked him as our starting quarterback at the beginning of the season and we’re going to ride with that.”
Manning undoubtedly appreciates the backing. He, more than just about anyone, has become the face of failure for this team. Co-owner John Mara earlier this week, putting his support behind Manning, said he is being treated like a “punching bag.”
Manning chuckled at that.
“I understand,” he said of the scrutiny. “That’s just part of playing quarterback. You’ve got to be be tough and you’ve got to be able to handle the tough times. I’m just trying to do my job.”