Fired Giants executive takes a shot at Eli Manning
The greatest shutdown defender in the history of pro football isn’t Chuck Bednarik or Dick Butkus or Ray Lewis, but rather Father Time.
For Eli Manning and the new brain trust of the New York Giants, however, it seems as though their strategy going forward is to run the football right at that chronological behemoth and dare him to make the stop.
Or so claims Marc Ross, the team’s recently fired vice president for player evaluation.
Ross took a shot at Manning in an interview Thursday on ESPN’s “NFL Live,” questioning the team’s decision to stick with the 37-year-old quarterback and seemingly blaming him for the furor over his benching last season.
“He’s a two-time Super Bowl MVP, his pictures are all throughout the building, everybody loves the guy,” Ross said. “We saw what happened last year when it didn’t go his way. And it’s gonna at some point have to happen again. Now how will it be handled the next time? But he can’t play forever. So we’ll see what happens next time.”
“Didn’t go his way” referred to Manning’s refusal to play in a game against the Raiders knowing he’d be subbed out at halftime, an idea Giants brass came up with so he could keep his 210-game consecutive starts streak alive.
The team’s decision to bench the two-time Super Bowl MVP in that Oakland game in favor of former Jet Geno Smith infuriated Giants fans and eventually cost coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese their jobs.
As for, “How will it be handled the next time?” that will come whenever the Giants decide to give the controls to their quarterback of the future the way they gave them to Manning back in 2004.
This is of particular relevance since the Giants hold the No. 2 draft pick in what some say might be the best quarterback class since 1983. It’s the perfect time to choose Manning’s heir apparent and let the veteran have a last hurrah season while the rookie learns the offense and gets ready to take the reins in 2019.
Ross dodged responsibility for the blowup over Manning’s benching last year.
“I was on the road scouting at the time, so I’m not talking about it,” he said with a smirk. “I’m gonna leave that one alone. But I think it was something that had been talked about and discussed, and in hindsight it could have been handled differently; some people say it could have, some people said maybe not. It happened, Eli’s still a major presence there, and they just have to decide going forward what to do with that situation.”
New GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur expect Manning to be their starter next season at least. Gettleman said he looked at the tape from last year and saw a quarterback who still has something left in the tank.
“I had an opportunity to watch [all of Manning’s 2017 game footage],” Gettleman told reporters. “Obviously quarterback is the most important position on the team, and at the end of the day, [Manning’s excellent Week 15 performance] wasn’t a mirage.”
In that game, Manning lit up the highly regarded Philadelphia Eagles defense for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
It was his best performance in a rough year. Manning threw only 19 touchdown passes, his second-worst total for a full season, and the Giants finished a putrid 3-13.
One big reason was injuries to New York’s wide receivers. Superstar Odell Beckham Jr. broke his ankle in a Week 5 loss to the Chargers, and Brandon Marshall had season-ending ankle surgery after the same game.
Ross said he knew the 2017 season was going to be a stinking disaster even before then, after a Week 3 loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia.
“Actually the Eagles game, the third game of the season,” he said. “You know we went to Dallas the opening game, we usually play well down there, we played bad. Then we come back Monday night, we’re honoring the ’07 Super Bowl team, we play bad again. And then the third week we go down to Philly, start out playing bad and then we start rolling in the second half like, ‘Alright, this is turning our season around’; then that rookie kicks a 61-yard field goal and it just felt like this is not gonna be right — and it just felt like the Eagles are gonna be magical and we were having a rough year. And it kinda just kept spiraling from there.”
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