Is Eli Manning too young to handle a playoff

Paul Schwartz: I don't get irritated often (I'm not counting my rising blood pressure whenever I'm sitting in traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway) but all this "young quarterback'' rhetoric regarding Eli Manning is starting to irritate me. Kind of like when I get served the smallest slice of the pie (pizza or pecan, take your pick).

Yes, we all know that Eli is 24 years old, that he's in his second year with the Giants, that with that scruffy attempt at a beard he looks like he could be sauntering around a college campus. But the Vikings game (one he'd like to forget) was his 16th start, which equals one full season. He needs to start developing a sense of urgency, needs to stop thinking of himself as a maturing quarterback with time to grow. What he blossoms into a few years down the road doesn't help the 2005 Giants, a team that unquestionably has the talent to be in the playoffs. I'm not questioning his work ethic or the way he deals with his teammates or the media. Players sing his praises and want to rally around him. No question, he's not a finished product but he doesn't need to use that as a crutch, no matter how much it rings of the truth. Believe me, opposing defenses will go after him and try to prey on his inexperience. Eli doesn't need to help them by buying into all this "young quarterback'' stuff. There's a playoff chase to run and the Giants need a steady hand to guide them, not a kid who figures he's got time on his side.

Ken Palmer: Exactly, my good friend. But to me that all falls on the Giants. They actually need to keep him out of situations like they did against Minnesota. Throwing the ball 48 times? When the contest was close all game long and you've got Tiki Barber on your side? Of course, you don't want the coaching staff to be scared to let Eli win the game. But let's please use a little common sense here as well. Manning does not ever need to throw the ball that many times; not until he's viewed as good as his brother years from now. Sure he was the top overall pick two years ago, but who said he's Dan Fouts all of a sudden? Yes, he had to fire the ball 41 times in the loss to San Diego, but the Giants were trailing that game all evening long. Manning needs to be protected a little, partly because he is a young quarterback still prone to making mistakes. And partly because the Giants offense boasts probably the top all-around running back in the game in Barber. Tiki doesn't complain about his touches because he's selfish; it's because he knows that he's New York's recipe for success. He's been around long enough to say that with certainty. How about we pull the reins in on Manning just a touch, say 10 or 15 throws a game or so?

PS: We're definitely not far off on our thinking with Eli but I have a feeling our paths are about to diverge. From talking with you I get the sense you're getting all hot and bothered about the loss of William Joseph, who might be out for the rest of the season with a dislocated elbow. This injury certainly doesn't help and, after two years of waiting for Joseph to show something (Heaven knows we weren't waiting for him to SAY something) he finally has offered a hint as to why he was a first-round draft pick. In his third year he's become a useful player, a good, solid defensive tackle who is athletic and able to endure the rigors of a long game. Good for him. But don't try to tell me that he's not replaceable. Get your head out of Penn State's BCS situation long enough to take a look at the roster. Kenderick Allen is a big, strong man who when given a chance has done some very positive things. He can move in and stop the run, of that I have no doubt. And, in passing situations, Fred Robbins can step in and rush the quarterback better than Joseph did. Between the two, they can make up for the loss of Joseph.

KP: We all know that Willie Joe is far from my favorite player, but facts are facts. He was playing at the highest level of his career lately, and as well as any Giants DT has for the last several seasons. He's finally starting to show all the talent and ability and prove that he was worth the first-round pick they so surprisingly spent on him in 2003. Sure the players behind him will fill in well enough, but most of the recent success of New York's D-line has been the rotation including Robbins, Allen and Damane Duckett. Now you take the key member (he was leading all DTs in tackles (19) and sacks (2), you know?) out of the mix as the importance of the games rises significantly and to me, you're really going to miss Joseph's play. Not to mention how much his teammates have grown to love how he's come on and started proving the naysayers wrong. There's nothing a veteran loves more than seeing one of his younger mates make media members look silly. Now that's all lost for at least a month. Joseph's absence might not be all that noticeable to novices like you, Paul, but it sure will be to Tim Lewis and company, who will be desperately checking with trainer Ronnie Barnes on a weekly basis to see when big number 94 can return to the lineup.

PS: Now that I see your thinking is completely misguided on the defensive line, let's see how confused you are about the big guys on the offensive side of the ball. The most indispensable member of the offensive line is not the best player on the line. It's center Shaun O'Hara, who contributes more than the blocks and snaps he makes during a game. He's the leader of the group, on and off the field. The way he played through pain and injury last season made him one of Tom Coughlin's favorites. The way he stands up and says what he feels in the locker room makes him a go-to guy for the media, win or lose. He's a comforting presence for Manning and he directs the traffic along the line. In a pinch, Bob Whitfield could fill in for either of the starting tackles and Rich Seubert is waiting in the wings should either of the guards fall by the wayside. Jason Whittle can replace O'Hara at center and no doubt would do a fine job, but he doesn't bring the intangibles that O'Hara brings to the team. You see, Kenny, you don't notice the intangibles.

KP: Nor do you notice talent in any way, shape or form. Say what you will, but this OL would be absolutely lost if anything happened to Luke Petitgout. And here I thought you were different from those who like to continue kicking dirt on players even after they've started to play much better (see: Will Allen). Petitgout not only is the most talented member of New York's O-line, he's clearly the most irreplaceable. I learned a long time ago that I don't know nearly enough about offensive line play to grade on my own. That's why I talk to the players in the locker room, really the only ones that know exactly what's going on. They'll all tell you the same thing – they'd take Petitgout over just about anyone not named Orlando Pace or Walter Jones. Sure hope you're making a mental note of this, Paul. Remember how Whitfield played when he was thrust into the lineup for a few plays earlier in the year? Exactly. And don't start dismissing Petitgout just because he doesn't want to talk to the press. With you walking around that room, it's a wonder anyone fulfills their media ‘obligation.'

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