AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
At the end of a bizarre week, the strangest sight is yet to come.
That will arrive on a television screen near you on Sunday afternoon when the Giants play the Raiders in Oakland and, for the first time in over 13 years, someone other than Eli Manning trots out onto the field for the opening offensive snap. It will be jarring. It will be sad. It will be shocking in its timing. For an entire generation of Giants fans, it will be something they have never witnessed.
But it shouldn’t be unexpected. Eli Manning won two Super Bowls for the Giants, he did not build them a time machine or find the fountain of youth. At some point — whether it was this week, this season, three seasons from now — Manning was going to have to step aside and yield to a younger player. The Giants have been hinting at that for the past year.
“[Manning] understands that at some point we have to look at the other quarterbacks because he’s not going to play forever,” co-owner John Mara said this week.
There could have been cleaner ways to do this. Maybe. The easiest out for everyone would have been if Manning spent this game on the sideline with his arm in a sling or with a pending visit to Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. No one wishes for anyone to get injured, but that would have been the only transition short of a Lombardi Trophy hoist into the sunset with no villain, no scapegoat. (Although there certainly would be plenty blaming the porous offensive line for allowing Manning to get hurt.)
Instead, the franchise had to make a decision. That it was made by a coach and general manager many believe won’t last in their current roles far beyond the New Year makes it hurt. That it was made in favor of a quarterback deemed not good enough to be re-signed by the Jets this offseason makes it sting. That it was made in a season when Manning was not afforded a full allotment of playmakers and protectors on the offense makes it frustrating. That it made Manning’s eyes tear up, forced him to play on the scout team this week, and might have created an irreparable rift between the franchise and the franchise quarterback, makes it sad.
But that it had to be made at some point, well, that should hardly be a surprise.
Regular-season games played by Eli Manning, which is second-most in franchise history behind Michael Strahan (216). Manning likely will have to be back on the team as the starting quarterback next season to achieve the record.
ONE ELI GOES, ANOTHER RETURNS
In this case the one coming back is Eli Apple, the second-year cornerback who missed the past two games after missing two practices for personal reasons. With Pro Bowl cornerback Janoris Jenkins on injured reserve following ankle surgery this week, the Giants will need Apple to play and play well.
“Eli is back in the fold and depending on what package we’re in, you’ll see him out there,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “So, that’s a good thing. That’ll help us.”
It’s not just as simple as coming back from an injury or time away, though. Apple returns for his first game since a published report said he took criticism over lackadaisical play too personally and threatened to leave the team. Had it not been for the change at quarterback overshadowing everything, Apple would have been in the center of the week’s biggest controversy on the team. Apple denied that report, by the way, but there is no denying the effort he gave on the plays in question.
Apple said this week that he does not feel the need to prove anything to anyone against the Raiders. He said he knows what to expect from himself and his role in the defense on Sunday. That, though, was before he popped up on the injury report on Friday with a hip issue and was listed as questionable for the game.
“Eli’s had a good couple days of practice,” McAdoo said on Thursday.
If he can transfer that to the game, he can go back to being the most anonymous Eli on the team.
Long Islanders on the Raiders staff in wide receivers coach Rob Moore (Hempstead) and offensive line coach Mike Tice (Central Islip).
The Raiders will likely be without their top two receivers on Sunday as Michael Crabtree serves a one-game suspension and Amari Cooper is dealing with a concussion and ankle sprain. The two players have combined for 11 of Oakland’s 17 touchdown receptions this season.
“It’ll be similar to how we finished the game last week,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’ve got guys that we will be counting on. Cordarrelle , Johnny Holton, Seth Roberts and then we’re bringing up Isaac Whitney (from the practice squad). So, we’ll have our guys ready to go.”
And go they will. The Raiders have some of the fastest receivers in the NFL, even without their top two burners.
“I think everybody on their team is a 4.5, 4.4 guy,” CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “I think you get the same game plan as far as them throwing the ball down the field vertically.
When he watched the film of the Raiders, Spanguolo said that footspeed jumped out. The Raiders lead the NFL with 12 touchdown passes of 20 yards or more this season.
“There’s guys running downfield that are open with some speed,” he said. “That concerns us. We talk a lot about that. We can’t allow that explosive deep play.”
Years since the Giants have played in Oakland. Their last visit there to play the Raiders was in 2005. They have played in Oakland just three previous times (1-2) having faced the Raiders in Los Angeles three times between 1983 and 1992. They were 1-2 in Los Angeles, too.
Interceptions by the Giants defense since Week 10. That’s the same number of picks as the Eagles and Steelers during that span and trails only the Chargers (nine). The Giants will, however, be without their team leader in interceptions, Janoris Jenkins, who has three. He was placed on injured reserve after ankle surgery this week.