Eli at the Helm

While it's not totally true that Eli Manning hasn't made any significant progress as the Giants quarterback, he sure didn't improve nearly as much as everyone would have liked. In his second full season as Big Blue's starting signal-caller, Manning regressed more than he progressed.

And that was a big reason why Tom Coughlin had to sweat out his future after the season ended – and perhaps the main reason the season ended in playoff defeat for a second consecutive campaign.

During the end of the season meetings that led Giants management to give Coughlin a one-year extension, it was no secret that Manning was the most talked-about part of the team. Did Coughlin think he could be a championship quarterback? How did he plan to get that type of play out of him? Which coach or coaches could be brought in to help the struggling Manning? And most importantly, does the shy, quiet Manning have the fire, assertiveness and leadership abilities to lead the Giants to the Promised Land?

The fact that the Giants posted consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in a decade-and-a-half was dwarfed by the fact that they were blown out at home by Carolina last year, in what may still be Manning's poorest career performance, and that they were overmatched and outplayed by the Eagles on Jan. 7 in Philadelphia.

"It's disappointing, because we had some opportunities," Manning said after the game. "We had some chances early in the game that we didn't take advantage of. We didn't play well enough. It's obviously disappointing. We fought back. We gave ourselves a shot. But we made too many mistakes to get back into the game."

Manning was asked if he had progressed this season as he had hoped.

"I have to get better, I have to play better football," Manning said. "I can't turn the ball over as many times as I did. As an offense we didn't score enough points. We didn't execute well at times and score when we got down into the red zone. We have to find a way to be more consistent and find a way to get completions and move the ball. We got stuck in too many third-and-long situations because we're not getting completions on first and second down.

"We didn't execute well enough down the stretch. We were in games and we'd tie them up, but we couldn't find ways to win games in the end. That's what it came down to. Sometimes early in games you have to get touchdowns instead of field goals. That's what we didn't do."

With Tiki Barber not around to run the ball next year, Manning will likely be even more responsible for the success of the offense.

"I'm looking forward to next year and continuing to get better," Manning said. "We can get better as an offense and as a team. Obviously, you can't replace Tiki. We're going to have someone step into that role. We're going to miss him. I'm going to have to step up my game. Other guys have to step up and we're going to have to find a way to move the ball and be a better offense than we were this year."

Here's a closer look at Eli Manning:

Positives

Manning got the Giants into the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since Phil Simms was under center in 1989-90.

He finished tied for fourth in the NFL with 24 TD passes.

Manning finished 11th overall in the league with 3,244 passing yards.

He improved his completion percentage from 52.8 percent in 2005 to 57.7 percent this year.

Manning clearly developed a chemistry with Jeremy Shockey, especially after the loss of Amani Toomer in the middle of the season. Manning connected with Shockey 66 times, including seven TDs.

With 301 completions, Manning became the only Giants QB other than Kerry Collins to complete more than 300 passes in a season.

Negatives

Manning's passer rating of 77.0 was good for only 18th in the entire league.

He only had one 300-yard game all season, when he tossed for 371 during week two's dramatic comeback victory in Philadelphia. While we know it's unfair to compare, his brother reached the big 3-0-0 on six occasions.

Had a much stronger first half of the season (15 TDs, 9 INTs) than he fared in the final eight games (9 TDs, 9 INTs).

Manning had a lowly 64.9 QB rating on third down, leaving him ranked 27th in the NFL in that important category.

He was only slightly better (25th in the league) in fourth-quarter passing. He had seven TDs and eight INTs in the all-important final period.

Manning had five games when he threw for less than 155 yards, including a dismal 74-yard effort with the playoffs on the line against New Orleans on Christmas Eve.

Was picked off three times in week three as the Giants were blown out in Seattle.

How to help Eli

There's no question the Giants need a legitimate QB coach. Manning still seems to have some mechanical issues with his throwing motion and he threw off his back foot way too many times. Hopefully that will also lead to better clock management from Manning and much fewer wasted timeouts.

Whether Manning likes it or not, some of the veterans are going to have to lean on him harder and demand more fire, emotion and leadership ability from him.

Manning needs a full season from Luke Petitgout. When New York's starting left tackle went down midway through the year, so did Manning's production.

More depth at receiver can only help. Late in the year, it was hard to criticize Manning too much when he was forced to throw to David Tyree and Tim Carter.

He's certainly only going to come under more pressure without Tiki Barber next season. The Giants need to bring in an established running back to take some of the heat off Manning.

Even a somewhat dependable defense and return game would only help take some of the onus off Manning to do it all.

The Giants Beat Top Stories