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all eli all the time

The Dave Brown Paradox

Remember Dave Brown? He sure looked like a quarterback. He stood six foot five, and when he played at Duke, he piled up ridiculous numbers under Steve Spurrier. The Giants surrendered a No. 1 draft choice to take him as a supplemental pick (never understood what that was, but no matter), and he started for most of three seasons before crapping out. The Giants should have learned an important lesson. If you have a quarterback who nails six-yard passes, but is pretty much hopeless at anything beyond that, you've got to get another quarterback.

We were thinking about that at the half of yesterday's Giants game, reviewing Eli Manning's rather impressive-looking numbers: fifteen for seventeen, including a ten-minute-plus drive that was exactly the kind of methodical assault they needed after the hideous play of the preceding three games. However, the Giants gained just 129 yards on those fifteen completions, and put only seven points on the board. So the stats were actually pretty ominous. They were suggestive of a productive offense, but there was not, in fact, a productive offense on the field. Eli Manning was doing his best Dave Brown imitation.

Eli apologists will point to many breakdowns yesterday that he had nothing to do with, an inarguable point. The secondary on the game-losing drive was beyond pitiful, playing that old-school "prevent defense" that doesn't prevent anything. All Eli could do was watch in agony, along with the rest of us. The field-goal miscue in the first quarter, after an impressive opening drive, obviously proved costly. And the penalty on first and goal from the four after Terrell Thomas's interception was devastating.

But any way you look at it, Eli had his chances yesterday. Despite the performance on the Chargers' game-winning drive, the defense came up with several big plays yesterday, and often left the Giants in good field position. It came down to the simple fact that on that penultimate drive, after the Thomas pick, Manning needed to produce a touchdown. Yes, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride once again underwhelmed us all with his risk-averse, uncreative play-calling, evidently deciding that a field goal was an acceptable outcome at that point. But great quarterbacks are not stymied by mediocre coordinators. They're just not. It was Eli's job to make a touchdown, to punch in the score that would've put the game out of reach.

The Giants played like they had a rookie quarterback who had to be protected, with whom they could not afford to take risks. It is up to Eli to demand the opportunity to make plays that will win them games, just like Phil Rivers did. If Eli doesn't suddenly start showing some leadership, there is a chance that the Giants will lose six of their last seven games and finish 6–10. You can call that panicking, if you want. You can argue that Eli's not the problem — 25 of 33, two touchdowns, no interceptions, a quarterback rating higher than Rivers. But remember, Dave Brown had games like that, too.

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