Leave Warner alone

Apparently there's a belief that Eli Manning will turn into a pumpkin if he isn't handed the ball by Halloween. Manning is 23 years old with a lot to learn, just like a rookie quarterback from the Class of '98, first name Peyton. The kid brother can wait his turn. <BR><BR>

The rush to get Manning on the field has put Kurt Warner on a short leash with many fans and journalists and maybe even coach Tom Coughlin. The noise for starting Manning began long before the season opener. It grew louder when Warner had a mediocre debut against Philadelphia.

Warner extended the leash another week or two by playing well against Washington. But Warner's status shouldn't become a weekly inspection. It can't become a weekly inspection.

He earned the starting job in training camp by outplaying Manning. Warner took over a team with a developing offensive line. He took over a new offense that players are still trying to learn. Giving him anything short of eight games to quarterback the Giants is being unfair.

The only exception is if Warner clearly proves to be the problem in the Giants offense. Warner has to be the one holding back the Giants before he gets a deserved hook.

Meantime, give Warner at least half the season. Reassess the situation at the midway point. Is Warner the main problem? Has he given the Giants a realistic shot at the playoffs, which could be as mediocre as a 4-4 record? Is Manning capable of handling the hyperkinetic pace of NFL play? Are teammates prone to following Manning's lead? Answers to these questions will help Coughlin decide on his quarterback for the second half. But, again, unless Warner fails miserably before the midway point, he should get at least eight games.

Most of the people who want Warner on the bench are the ones who didn't want him starting in the first place. They wanted an inexperienced quarterback with a shaky line and a new offense. These people need a refresher on the track record of rookie starting quarterbacks, including the Colts starter in '98. Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions and the Colts went 3-13 that year. There's no reason to think things would be much different with the Giants if his kid brother took the ball.

Warner deserves a chance, a real chance, to lead the Giants to respectability. Not one game or a couple games or a month. Give him half a season and see where he's at and where the Giants are at. Manning eventually will turn into a top-notch NFL quarterback. Promise, he won't turn into a pumpkin if he doesn't get the ball by Halloween.

* * *

Jeremy Shockey wasn't so much complaining about his role as he was expressing his frustrations. He is used to running pass patterns first and blocking second. Coach Tom Coughlin wants Shockey doing a little bit of everything.

There is irony with Shockey having expressed his undying affection for Coach Dictator after he got the job. But there is no bad guy in this scenario. It's simply a matter of Shockey, and every teammate, learning and accepting new responsibilities. These are the types of changes that come with a new coaching staff.

Coughlin may not be Father Flanagan, but he's a sharp football mind who has one overriding desire concerning Shockey. That's to put Shockey in the best position to help the Giants win football games.

Nothing else matters to Coughlin. Heck, it's been said that NOTHING else matters to Coughlin. He could care less how many balls Shockey catches, how many tackles he breaks, how many first downs he signals – if the Giants win.

That's why saying that Coughlin is under-utilizing Shockey is saying that Coughlin misses the importance of Shockey catching passes. It's hard to believe Coughlin is unaware of Shockey's potential as a receiver.

Rather, Coughlin needs Shockey's blocking skills with the line still developing. Warner has taken too many hits already, at least 17 in the first two games. There would have been more had Shockey been running around the secondary all day. Shockey will get more comfortable with his role. Coughlin will unleash Shockey when the coach gets more comfortable with Warner's protection. Shockey's frustrations are understandable. He expressed his point of view diplomatically. But he can't allow the new responsibilities to sap him of emotional energy. The Giants need Shockey at his emotional peak, whether he's catching one ball or 10. His various forms of expression rub off on teammates and wear on opponents.

Now the Giants need Shockey to exercise a little patience. It's another step in his maturation process.

* * *

Ron Dayne is in no position to complain about his role, as he did to Newsday last week. He dislikes being used primarily as a short-yardage back. Well guess what? There is virtually no other role for Dayne on the team.

Dayne either can perfect the art of gaining tough yards up the middle – which he certainly could stand to improve upon – or he can accept a limited role as an every-down runner.

The Giants already have the type of back that Dayne wants to be. His name is Tiki Barber. The team needs Dayne to gain the tough yards and occasionally spell Barber. If he isn't happy with that, he will never be happy in a Giants uniform. Dayne always can look on the bright side. Jim Fassel isn't coaching the Giants anymore.

* * *

There is only one kind of win in the NFL. That's the kind in which your team scores more points than the other team.

Outside of few exceptions, there is no such thing as winning ugly in the NFL. There is too much parity to worry much about style points. Human nature dictates teams are unable to reach their physical, emotional and mental peak each week. So when your team can win without playing its best, take the "W'' and run.

The Giants certainly should have beaten Washington handily after forcing seven turnovers. But the Giants aren't nearly good enough to warrant criticism after a win. When the Giants reach that point, they will be a Super Bowl contender.


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