HEADLINE

Giants GM Gettleman sticking with Manning

The Sports Xchange

January 03, 2018 at 3:26 pm.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New general manager Dave Gettleman of the New York Giants said he has every intention of moving forward with 37-year-old quarterback Eli Manning as the team’s quarterback in 2018.

Gettleman also admitted that he only saw two Giants games in which Manning played this season, one of which was Manning’s impressive showing against the Eagles in Week 15.

And as Gettleman said during his introductory press conference last week, if that performance wasn’t a mirage, then it’s likely full steam ahead with Manning.

However, Gettleman, a self-professed film junkie, isn’t going to go off one performance. In a radio interview with the Afternoon Drive on WFAN Radio Tuesday, Gettleman said his research and investigation into what Manning has left in his tank is only just getting started.

“I’ve got to sit down and study tape,” Gettleman said. “I’m gonna study the tape on Eli, I’m gonna study it chronologically. I only was able to watch a couple of Giants games front to back and one of ’em happened to be the second Philly game. The guy that I saw that day was a guy that helped put two rings on my fingers.”

Perhaps an even bigger challenge for Gettleman than trying to decide if he agrees with Manning about the quarterback having a lot of good football left in him is sorting through the mess that was the Giants’ offense this season.

Manning played behind 10 different offensive line combinations that didn’t always provide the most pristine of pass protection.

He also lost his top receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, and had to play games without Sterling Shepard and rookie tight end Evan Engram. And for much of the season, the running game was a non-factor, which certainly didn’t help.

Those were all factors in the offense finishing 21st thanks to its 314.2 yards-per-game average. Still, Manning is very much one-twelfth of that unit and was not totally blameless in the team’s struggles to crack 30 points, something they haven’t been able to do in the last two seasons.

Manning has at times looked skittish even with protection. He also appears to have lost some arm strength, particularly on his deep pass attempts of 20 or more yards. Per Pro Football Focus, Manning threw six interceptions to four touchdowns, completing just 14 of 60 attempts for a passer rating of 38.8 on pass attempts over 20 yards.

The Giants have the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft. Gettleman has no doubt already heard the pleas of people on the outside to invest that pick in a franchise quarterback, but at the same time, he’s not going to let the court of popular opinion influence him.

“When I finish my film work that’s what’s gonna tell me which way to go,” Gettleman said. “You can talk about this guy, you can talk about that guy. It’s what’s going on between the white lines. The film, it’s not pretty, it’s not a quick view.”

Gettleman also plans to meet with Manning in the coming days. In the end, the decision he comes to regarding one of the most beloved figures in the franchise’s history isn’t going to be driven by sentiment.

“It’s business,” Gettleman said. “Every decision we make here is going to be in the best interest of the New York Football Giants.”

–The Giants lifted the suspension the club had imposed on cornerback Eli Apple before the regular-season finale.

That was the easy part. The hard part will be repairing any fractures between Apple and his teammates in the locker room, a process that new general manager Dave Gettleman plans to personally oversee starting sooner than later.

“The plan is I am going to meet with him (Wednesday),” Gettleman said during an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Gettleman didn’t provide any insight into what his message might be to Apple, but certainly, the conversation is likely to touch upon how the team’s 2015 first-round pick, a talented cornerback, strayed so far off the rails in what was a season filled with repeated team rule infractions that led to multiple punishments and well-publicized friction with safety Landon Collins, who last month in a radio interview called the 22-year-old Apple “a cancer.”

Apple’s 2017 season was filled with personal strife, most notably his mother Annie’s health issues that included brain surgery in late November. He was also deactivated for four straight weeks, the first two a result of his being excused to be with his mother during her surgery.

Apple also reportedly came close to walking out of the team’s facility during former head coach Ben McAdoo’s now famous “brutally honest” film review in which the coach put on display for the entire team to see examples of players whose effort was lacking.

Apple, per a report by the New York Post, reportedly became upset that a couple of his plays drew particularly harsh criticism from teammates, a claim he vehemently denied.

His feud with Collins seemed to be the point of no return. It began when Collins, a respected young leader in the locker room who is only a year older than Apple, told reporters that he had reached out to support Apple on numerous occasions to help him through his on- and off-field struggles.

Apple then denied ever having such conversations with Collins, mentioning only cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and receiver Brandon Marshall as two teammates who reached out to help him.

Rodgers-Cromartie believes that Apple can straighten himself out.

“Definitely. Easy,” he said Monday as the Giants cleaned out their lockers. “You got a whole offseason to think about it and reflect. I think he was a guy that’s young and didn’t know how to deal with a lot of stuff. But I think he has a tremendous upside and I think they should definitely give him another look.”

That includes Collins, Rodgers-Cromartie said.

“I just feel like it’s like a little brother, big brother relationship. Sometimes you want to hit your little brother and say some things and he can get under your skin. But at the end of the day, I know it’s love though because I’ve been around those guys the whole season.

“I think that anytime that you’re out and you get caught off guard, you say some things that you may not mean, it’s just caught up in the moment. When you have time to reflect, any time a man can come back and apologize, whether it’s sincere or not, it still means a lot. I definitely think that he was just caught off guard. Venting a little bit, you know? I don’t think that Eli is a cancer.”

Gettleman seems to believe Apple can push aside his tumultuous 2017 season and get back in the good graces with his teammates. He’s hoping that their pow-pow puts Apple on the right path.

“One thing I learned is culture is critical. … Bottom line you have to develop a culture where people are accountable, people respect each other and earn the right to win, meaning they leave it all on the field.”

–There were numerous mysteries to hit the locker room this year, though perhaps there was none bigger than the steep decline of the defense.

The Giants’ defense, which in 2016 finished 10th overall, tied for third (with the Patriots) against the run, and was second in scoring, fell to 31st, 27th and 27th respectively despite having most of the same talent back and being another year invested in the same scheme run by the same defensive coordinator.

Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has been around for a while, agreed the struggles of the defense were almost surreal.

“I just looked at the locker room with the guys we had, I thought we would do much, much better,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s football and you can never truly know what’s going to happen in a season. You just got to live through it and we got through it.”

One possibility is injuries. For the second year in a row, the Giants were unable to get their two high-priced defensive ends, Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, on the field at the same time for all 16 games. Vernon missed four games with a high ankle sprain.

Meanwhile defensive tackle Damon Harrison soldiered on through assorted injuries that included a knee, ankle and elbow.

Injuries also ripped through the linebacker unit that last year was more of a factor in stopping the run by filling gaps. New York lost weak-side starter Jonathan Casillas to a season-ending neck injury, nickel linebacker Keenan Robinson to a quad injury, and middle linebacker B.J. Goodson to a high-ankle sprain.

The secondary also had its share of bumps. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, a Pro Bowler last year, suffered an early-season ankle injury that never got better and led to his landing on injured reserve.

Cornerback Eli Apple struggled with off-field issues that he unfortunately couldn’t separate from the work place. And Pro-Bowl safety Landon Collins fought through a high-ankle sprain as well, finally succumbing to it in Week 17.

“I think that’s the main thing,” said Rodgers-Cromartie of the injuries. “You got guys coming in and out of the building and it’s hard to gel as a team and get a feel for people and their style of play. Especially when you come off a season where you bring everybody back, you look to hit the ground running.

“It don’t work like that when you get hit with injuries and all kinds of stuff. You just got to keep battling through it, so I think the main thing is that it’s hard to put pieces together like that that aren’t normally there.”

The good news is that time heals all sprained ankles, quads, hamstrings and necks. While it remains to be seen how the roster will be built for 2018, Rodgers-Cromartie believes that things can quickly turn around for the better as soon as 2018.

“Easily. Definitely,” he said. “I know the guys that are in the locker room, the guys that were hurt, I know they are eager to get back and get started and I can tell you that no man wants this taste in their mouth this whole offseason.

“It was a very, very difficult season, but I think guys’ mindset is coming back and not having that feeling again.”