Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
IS SHURMUR CLOSE TO CHOOSING JONES OVER MANNING
AS QB FOR SUNDAY'S GAME IN
By Dave Klein
has to happen, sooner or later, and from what the vibes were around the Giants
on Monday, after the second loss in the first two games of this season, the answer
seems to be sooner.
We're talking about
Eli Manning losing his starting job, of course, and he is no stranger to the process.
He took over in 2004 after Kurt Warner has started the first nine games of the
season, and his record streak of starts didn't end until head coach Ben McAdoo
decided "to see what Geno Smith could do" 211 games later against the Oakland
Raiders in 2017.
Now it is beginning
to look as though, as early as next Sunday in Tampa, Eli will be replaced by rookie
Head coach Pat Shurmur,
who has shown a disturbing tendency in the last few weeks to answer questions
with non-answers, was grilled on the subject of Eli and Daniel Monday, and of
particular importance was the fact that, unlike previous answers, he didn't say
"Eli is the starting quarterback" to "Eli has been our starter to this point,
but I'm not really ready to get into any of those conversations about any position.
"We're going to talk about everything
we're doing moving forward [another favorite phrase]. There are areas where we
have to get better."
Does that mean
There was no response.
Manning, 38 years old and a 16-year veteran, had a mediocre performance Sunday,
completing 26 of 45 passes for 250 yards, two interceptions, one touchdown and
a lowly 62.3 QB rating, as the Giants fell to Buffalo, 28-14. He is 0-2 this season
and during those two games he is 5-for-24 on third down opportunities.
That's not acceptable.
Of course, not
much of that is his fault. He doesn't call the plays (Shurmur does) and he doesn't
run the receivers' routes (guys who don't usually start but who are healthy) are
taking care of that chore and he doesn't make the blocks that are supposed to
keep him untouched.
But if he's ready
- or forced - to step down, does Shurmur think the rookie is ready if the dramatic
decision is actually made and he is named the new starter?
"I think anybody we put in there is ready to go," he said. "We're looking at everything
we can do to get better, that's what we want every week. To this point, what we've
done hasn't been good enough."
the difficulties Manning has encountered on third down, Shurmur tried a little
word game in response to a question, which was? "You guys are 5-for-24 through
the first two weeks on third down. Obviously, you can get better on first and
second down, but how do you create more manageable third down situations to prolong
His answer was priceless. "You're
sort of answering the question within your question," he said. "We have to be
in more manageable situations. I think we've had longer yardage on third downs
than the law allows, so we need to do a better job of managing those situations.
That's where it starts. Everybody needs to do their job. We have to protect well,
make sure we're running crisp routes. We need to throw and catch."
made himself unavailable Monday, clearly not wanting to get involved what might
be a historic change. But last week he indicated he was working on older films
of Giants' games with Tampa Bay to help Manning prepare, and that he was dividing
reps in scout team practices with Alex Tanney (the third QB).
always trying to do what we can to win this next game. And then we're always behind
the scenes having those long-term discussions," Shurmur said. "I think the challenge
each week is doing what you can to win each game. That's really my focus as the
coach and certainly that is what the players' focus is."
the usually soft-spoken, "make no waves" Saquon Barkley, clearly the team's best
player and the weapon around which the offense should be structured, had something
not quite positive to say.
a big believer in 'it's still early.' I'm not going to lie, I'm not a big fan
of that saying," he said. "But you have to understand that is the case in the
NFL because it's a marathon. It's 16 games. I don't like believing in that because
I don't want to get caught in that. We've got to address the situation now and
continue to get better and try to get another win."
Another? The next one would be the first in 2019.
a question begs to be asked: Will the change from a veteran to a rookie really
make a difference? The truthful answer is that it probably wouldn't. Oh, right,
on a third-and-forever, maybe Jones would be able to run out of trouble and perhaps
even get the first down, but one doesn't count on quarterbacks for that.
The RPO, or run-pass option, doesn't apply all the time. There are far more times
when the offensive line must block, when the receivers must run proper routes
and when the quarterback must remain upright and peering downfield.
Just the way Manning has done in his first 15 seasons; the way the Giants hope
Jones will do for the foreseeable future. But does his future start this Sunday?
There are those who would caution that this isn't a warm-and-fuzzy situation and
that more damage might result from a rookie than a veteran.
In the team's first two games, Eli has completed 56 of 89 passes for 556 yards;
Barkley has 29 carries for 227 yards, and that translates into just 14.5 carries
per game. Someone packing his electricity should have 20 to 25 per game.
guess who calls the plays? Right, Shurmur.
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