With two Super Bowl rings, some people put Eli Manning in the same tier as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers. While, the two rings undoubtedly makes him “elite,” those other 3 guys are clearly in another tier and this season once again showed why. In 9 years as a starter, Eli Manning has missed the playoffs 4 times, including 3 of the last 4 seasons, and has only won a playoff game in 2 of those 9 seasons.
In 11 years as a starter, Tom Brady has missed the playoffs once and won a playoff game in all but 3 years. Peyton Manning has missed the playoffs just twice in his 14 season long NFL career, though he has suffered 8 exits without a postseason win. Aaron Rodgers, though more inexperienced than the quarterbacks already mentioned, has missed the playoffs once in his 5 year NFL career and won at least won playoff game twice in those five years, the same amount as Eli Manning has in 9. Eli Manning has had two incredible six week stretches in his career, leading to those 2 Super Bowls, and I’m sure the Giants wouldn’t trade 2 Super Bowls in 5 years for anything, but there’s something to be said for consistency and consistent excellence.
This year, the Giants missed the playoffs, enduring yet another 2nd half skid. Since Tom Coughlin took over in 2004, the same season as Eli Manning became the starter, the Giants are 53-19 in the first 8 games of the season and 30-42 in the second 8 games of the season. Eli Manning is not completely to blame, but his numbers are noticeably worse in the 2nd half of the season. His completion percentage drops about 3%. His YPA drops about 7/10ths of a yard per attempt. And his touchdown to interception ratio goes from 111/61 to 100/83.
This year, he completed 62.6% of his passes in the first half of the season, as opposed to 56.6% in the 2nd half, while averaging 7.8 YPA to 6.8. Only his touchdown to interception ratio (12/8 to 14/7) was improved in the 2nd half of the season. He once again had a strong season overall and you can’t really blame the Giants’ failure to make the playoffs on him, but he didn’t drag the Giants into the playoffs like the aforementioned trio has in the past. The good news for Giants’ fans: their +85 points differential was 2nd best in the NFL among non-playoff teams, behind Chicago. That tends to predict an impending improved season.
The Giants signed Chase Blackburn very late into the 2011 season, but he actually played pretty solid down the stretch, including an interception of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl that might have been the difference in the game. The Giants rewarded him with a starting job this season and Tom Coughlin loves him because of his intangibles, but the reality is, he’s just not that good. There’s a reason he was signed so late into 2011. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 43rd ranked middle linebacker out of 53 eligible. He’s a free agent this season and the Giants should use that opportunity to upgrade that spot.
Starting offensive tackles William Beatty and Sean Locklear are both free agents. Beatty broke out this season as the 2009 2nd round pick played at a borderline Pro-Bowl level, while Locklear, a veteran journeyman, was surprisingly decent. However, Beatty has a history of injuries problems and the Giants shouldn’t overpay him based on this one season. Locklear, meanwhile, cannot be trusted long term.
David Diehl is a former starter and he was their swing tackle this season after getting beaten out by Locklear, but he’s horrible. He was ProFootballFocus’ worst rated overall offensive lineman in 2011, ranking among the league’s worst at both offensive tackle and guard, and this year he wasn’t much better in limited action. Owed 4.1 million in his age 33 season next year, he’s an obvious candidate for release this off-season. They have a couple interesting former late round picks, but depending on what happens, the Giants could need to bring in at least two more offensive tackles this off-season.
Want to know why the Giants missed the playoffs? Their signature pass rush ranked just 14th in the NFL in pass rush efficiency this season. Justin Tuck had a 2nd straight disappointing regular season. He played incredibly well last postseason, but that didn’t carry over to this year. Owed 4.5 million in a contract year heading into his age 30 season in 2013, there’s been some talk the Giants could cut him. Osi Umenyiora, meanwhile, is a free agent. They could need to add at least one more defensive end to the mix if they plan on keeping up a four man rotation at end (with Mathias Kiwanuka on moving from linebacker on passing downs).
Martellus Bennett played very well this season in his 5th year in the league, his first as a starter. Not only was he an awesome blocker, like he was in Dallas, he chipped in with 55 catches for 625 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Giants won’t overpay him based off of one season though and Eli Manning has always shown the ability to get a lot out of mediocre pass catching tight ends in the past, so his breakout year may be more on Manning than anyone. If he leaves, they’ll have to find another tight end for Eli to get production out of.
What the hell happened to Corey Webster? Normally a solid cornerback, Webster was torched frequently this season, surrendering the 3rd most yards and 2nd most touchdowns of any cornerback this season. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 110th ranked cornerback out of 113 eligible. I don’t know if it was the Giants’ lack of an elite pass rush, or age (he turned 30 in March), or if he was playing injury, but he was terrible. Owed 7 million in an age 31 contract year in 2013, he might be cut this off-season.
Either way, the Giants need someone to go long term with 2011 1st round pick Prince Amukamara and maybe 2012 3rd round pick Jayron Hosley, though he struggled too this season, on the league’s 31st ranked pass defense. Terrell Thomas will almost definitely be cut, owed a non-guaranteed 8.25 million in 2013, coming off back-to-back seasons where he tore his ACL.
Keith Rivers is a free agent, while some are speculating that Michael Boley could be cut for ineffectiveness, owed 4.25 million in his age 31 season in 2013. If both are gone, they’ll need at least one new starter at the position and he may have to be an every down linebacker because Mathias Kiwanuka moves to defensive end on passing downs. They may opt to bring two players to split time like Boley and Rivers did this year, or they may bring in a player to split time with Jacquian Williams, a coverage specialist who was decent in limited action this season.
Kevin Boothe had a breakout year at left guard this season. He’s a free agent this off-season and will need to be re-signed, though they have to avoid overpaying him based on one year. If he’s not retained, they may go outside of the organization for a replacement, but they have some in house candidates as well.
The Giants have Antrel Rolle and breakout player Stevie Brown, but if Kenny Phillips leaves as a free agent, they’ll still need safety help. The Giants use a lot of 3 safety looks and it was no surprise that their defense was much better when the oft injured Phillips was out there. That allowed Antrel Rolle to play up closer to the line of scrimmage and cover the slot. If they want someone more reliable than Phillips, they’ll try to find another 3rd safety this off-season.
Lawrence Tynes is a free agent this off-season, who will either need to be re-signed or replaced.
Rueben Randle was a pretty ineffective punt returner this year, leading the way as the Giants averaged 7.2 yards per punt return, 30th in the NFL.