Should Eli be thrown right into the fire?

TGI's Paul Schwartz and Ken Palmer weigh in <BR><BR>

Ken Palmer: Well, it looks like we have no choice at this point, Paul. Who do you suggest, 'The Bachelor'? Even Neil O'Donnell, hardly headed for the Hall of Fame, has no interest in tutoring/backing up Eli Manning. However, that's not to say the Giants are doing the smart thing. Quite the opposite, actually. The Giants made a big mistake by allowing Manning to be the man from the get-go and they're going to pay dearly for it throughout this entire season.

Paul Schwartz: Look, from the moment the Giants made the trade with the Chargers to get Eli Manning, the focus of the 2004 season changed. Like it or not, the Giants have turned the keys of the franchise over to Saint Eli and he either drives it into the ground or takes it on an amazing joyride. It's understandable, Kenny, why you can't comprehend this. You "learned" your football at Penn State, where the quarterback position is often treated like an afterthought. The Nittany Lions' idea of a star QB is someone who can get the ball to spiral. Well, here in the NFL there's a higher standard. This season is about starting Eli Manning on the road to the greatness the Giants envision for him. He's not getting great holding a clipboard.

KP: Is there any thought whatsoever that throwing Eli right into the mix in Philadelphia on opening day behind a shaky at best offensive line coming off a 4-12 season might not be the best situation for a rookie? I know, I know, he's mentally tough and physically tough. There's also no doubt that the kid has never seen anything even remotely resembling the aggressiveness and tenacity of the Eagles defense, not to mention the rabid fans at the Linc…It's not like he's had experience playing in tough places like U-Albany to prepare him. The Giants could have and definitely should have done whatever necessary to make sure that Kerry Collins, a top five pick out of Quarterback U., was the starter on Sept. 12; not the guy they're pinning their hopes on for the next decade. There will be plenty of time for Manning to prosper and flourish; just not yet.

PS: What's the problem with Eli starting from Day 1? If you thought the Giants no matter who was at quarterback were going to make a Super Bowl run, or even contend for the NFC East title in a loaded division, you're deluded. Of course, Kenny Palmer before he's to wed is the same guy who expects to become the next "Bachelor'' after Jesse Palmer. Snap out of it. Sure, Kerry Collins makes the Giants better right now than Eli Manning, but try to take the long-term view here. It's about giving the franchise a shot at a title for a decade, not about squeezing a win or two out of this season.

KP: Surely Paul, you've heard from time to time how it's impossible to take a long-term view in today's salary cap NFL…Have you really been sleeping through all those Ernie Accorsi press conferences? And what about the fact that most players in that locker room not named Manning take this move as a sign that the club is basically throwing in the towel on the season. You think Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber, Amani Toomer, Luke Petitgout and Ike Hilliard want to start from scratch? That's where you're delusional my friend. The Giants quit when the going got tough last year without a reason; this time around, they already have a built-in excuse. An excuse that wouldn't be there if Manning were slowly worked into the mix while Collins continued to operate under center.

PS: Fine, make the argument that the veteran players who managed to survive the Tom Coughlin purge will grumble and gripe if Eli starts firing interceptions to turn winnable games into losses. Even Michael Strahan, the most outspoken critic of the "Give Eli the ball'' campaign, admits he has nothing against the kid. This isn't personal, and once his older teammates see how serious Eli is about his job and how talented he is, they'll come around. He might even add some excitement to the scene. Lord knows, coming off 4-12, that's not a bad thing.

KP: Interceptions exciting? Missed receivers entertaining? It's obvious, Paul, that you have nothing invested in this team. The fans are already beyond restless and most feel not only that the Giants made a mistake by giving up next year's number one, they're almost unanimously against the release of Kerry Collins. Look at this schedule – with a rookie at the helm, mind you – and find me more than three or four victories. I've got closer to eight with Collins in charge, while Eli learns from afar. If Collins were injured or faltered, then it's Eli's time. Every pass Manning throws early on, not only is he going to wish he had back, but the Giants certainly will as well.

PS: The bottom line is, why wait? Why keep Eli on the bench for a season, or even half a season, or even a quarter of a season, when the learning curve can be fast-forwarded by pushing him out onto the field? It's not like any one of the old vets the Giants are planning to sign to serve as a tutor and insurance will step in and magically transform the Giants into a big, bad scoring machine. Neil O'Donnell turned the Giants down but revealed the Giants' gameplan: Give Eli 70 percent of the snaps in training camp to get him ready to start. I wasn't in favor of giving up so many draft picks to get Eli, but now that he's here, he's got to play.

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