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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wally Matthews: New York Giants On Path of Self-Destruction

Wallace Matthews
Maybe this is as good as Eli gets
November 29, 2006

In the three seasons since the Giants traded away their future in order to rewrite their GM's past, we have seen Ben Roethlisberger win a Super Bowl, Philip Rivers develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, Tony Romo throw five touchdown passes in a game and Vince Young play like a seasoned veteran after only five pro starts.

Either those guys are ahead of schedule or Eli Manning is way, way behind.

In an era in which the learning curve for quarterbacks seems to be accelerated, Manning's career is stuck decidedly in neutral and may be slipping into reverse.

He is the one who was born and bred to be a quarterback. He is the one with the pedigree. He is the one whose father would have been great and whose brother has been for a long time. Roethlisberger, Rivers and even Young were gambles, but Eli Manning, Archie's kid and Peyton's brother, couldn't miss.

Except so far, he has.

He was expected to develop into one of the best quarterbacks in the game, but now, three years and 34 starts into his pro career, it always feels as if Eli Manning is the second-best quarterback on the field.

Why?

This week, there was no shortage of scapegoats in the Giants' locker room to deflect attention from what is becoming an elephant in the room. The quarterback around whom they expected to build a franchise is instead helping to drag it down.

The Giants traded Rivers along with three other draft picks - one of whom became star linebacker Shawne Merriman - to get Manning. We were told this would be a franchise-changing move, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the kind of bold pick with which a GM could cement his legacy and a team could secure its future.

Judging by Manning's current performance, so much for outgoing GM Ernie Accorsi's legacy and so long to the Giants' future.

It is one thing to be outplayed by big brother Peyton, quite another to be owned by the Rex Grossmans and David Garrards of the league. And when Vince Young reminds you of everything you once expected to see in Manning, it is time to start worrying.

It makes you wonder what Accorsi saw in Manning aside from the name, and his own bitter history. Somehow, he convinced himself that to let Manning slip away would be repeating the heartbreak of allowing John Elway to strong-arm the Baltimore Colts when Accorsi was their GM in 1983.

By throwing draft picks at the Chargers to get Manning, Accorsi thought he was correcting a mistake that had haunted him for more than 20 years. Instead, it looks as if he has only compounded it.

You will have to wait awhile for the official explanation, because right now, Accorsi is not talking about Eli Manning. He wouldn't come to the phone yesterday to answer the most basic question there is regarding Eli, which is, "When exactly will he get here?"

The answer, of course, is long after Accorsi is gone. If ever.

And it's not as if he hasn't been surrounded by a strong supporting cast. This isn't Archie Manning, soldiering on with a succession of miserable Saints teams, or Peyton Manning, being asked to rescue a woeful Colts squad, or even Phil Simms, whose leading receiver his rookie year, Earnest Gray, had all of 28 catches.

Eli's got Tiki Barber, one of the best all-purpose backs in the league, and Jeremy Shockey, a stud when healthy, and Plaxico Burress, whose astonishing athleticism has saved Manning numerous times this year, at least in those moments when Burress feels like playing. The loss of tackle Luke Petitgout, Manning's blindside protector, hasn't helped, but still Manning has been sacked just 20 times in 11 games.

Really, there is no outside excuse for Manning's lack of production. He has no one to blame but himself for constantly throwing behind receivers, or forgetting Shockey is even on the team until three quarters of the game have dribbled away, or flipping the ball blindly into double and triple coverage, as he did at the end of the Giants' 24-21 loss to the Titans. Defensive backs seem to read him a lot more easily than he reads them.

And yet, in a way that monumental collapse was the best thing that could have happened to Eli Manning. By the time we all got done blaming Burress, blaming Tom Coughlin, blaming and absolving Mathias Kiwanuka, it was easy to overlook the frightening realization that, even allowing him a slow learning curve, Eli is not gradually getting better, but progressively worse.

For three years now, the Giants have been assuring us, "Eli's coming."

But that raises another, even more disturbing question.

What if he's already arrived?

Note: I never used to give Mr. Matthews his just due until i heard him on the air a few times. Still, he's more of a boxing Guy then a football guy,......but he has the take on this. It could take Eli a long time to get over this.....He might be with another team by the time he does get over it. NY is a tough town and Giant fans are the most critical as well as the smartest fans in all of Pro Football.

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