When Sunday’s 30-10 Eagles win over the Giants ends at MetLife Stadium, ask yourself two questions: Why was Davis Webb inactive for a 14th time this season? And why did I watch if the rookie quarterback wasn’t playing?
For if Steve Spagnuolo doesn’t play Webb on Christmas Eve in Arizona or in the New Year’s Eve season finale at home against Washington, then John Mara compounded his mistake of signing off on Eli Manning’s unceremonial benching by hiring the wrong man to coach the Giants’ meaningless final four games.
Spagnuolo’s decision to start Manning last week against the Cowboys to “give the team a lift,” as Mara recounted this week at the NFL owners’ meetings outside Dallas, felt like Spagnuolo saying there were just as many people inside the building upset about Ben McAdoo’s and the organization’s treatment of Manning as outside of it.
And my feeling is that was true.
But even with Spagnuolo theoretically coaching to win now these remaining three games — and even if debuting Webb against this Eagles defensive line wouldn’t be ideal — how could part of firing McAdoo and naming an interim coach not include a discussion about how to remain proactive about evaluating the rookie quarterback in a game?
Interim GM Kevin Abrams this week admitted the easiest way to give Webb an opportunity would be to start him, but said the coach would have to name Webb the starter in a given week.
“Yeah, if you make that decision (to start Webb), yeah (it’s easier),” Abrams said. “It’s making that decision that’s not as easy.”
Don’t give me the excuse that Webb isn’t ready. My comeback to that? Tell me which Giants players were ready this season, especially on Spagnuolo’s 32nd-ranked defense in yards allowed (395.7 yards per game). The team is 2-11 with blame to go all the way around.
Don’t give me that Manning got the Giants out of certain looks and managed the offense against the Cowboys to give the team a chance to win, as Spagnuolo said. Manning’s offense has scored 12, three and 10 points, respectively, in his last three starts, compared to Geno Smith’s 17 in Oakland two weeks back. Webb literally almost can’t do worse.
The Giants are averaging 15.3 points per game, ahead of only the winless Cleveland Browns’ 15.2. If you’re keeping score at home, that is a difference of just two points all season: the Giants at 199, the Browns at 197 with three games to play. If only the higher draft pick were awarded to the worse offense, the Giants might still have a chance at No. 1 overall.
Don’t give me, either, that it’s too dangerous to put Webb behind this offensive line. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan can tell you: The Giants have schemed down and simplified their offense so much to quick throws, checkdowns and running plays that there are limited opportunities now for the quarterback to take a big hit.
The Giants’ offensive line ranks a more-respectable-than-expected 13th best in sacks allowed this season (29) and is tied for eighth-best in quarterback hits (62). But it’s not because the line has been great; it’s because the season began with Manning being ambushed off both tackles and continued with Manning fumbles on hits taken under pressure. And in Week 6 in Denver, when McAdoo finally gave up play-calling, Sullivan’s primary decisions were not only to commit to the run but to eliminate as much risk as possible from the pass game.
Plus, as far as systems go, the Giants already know that Webb, 22, can spread receivers out four and five wide and sling the ball out of the shotgun with protection. Or they should. He ran the Aid-Raid in college.
What they need to know is whether he can manage a game under center, and if he can make strong throws and smart decisions at this level of football, bounce back from a bad drive to engineer a productive one, and on and on.
They won’t be able to open up the playbook for him now and would want to limit the five-step drops, sure, but they’ve already done that. They’ve worked in more play action and emphasized safe check-downs and moving the chains. These are all tasks they should want to see Webb complete at minimal risk given the system’s evolution.
Spagnuolo may not be an offensive coach but Mara — whose version of events on the Manning-Geno-Webb saga changes by the day — should understand that his and McAdoo’s and Jerry Reese’s original sentiment of looking at the other quarterbacks was never a bad idea. It was how they executed it that set the building ablaze.
Now that there’s no turning back and Manning’s streak is over, and knowing that they most likely will be drafting a quarterback come April, the thought that the Giants would just wind the clock down on these games and not let Webb put some football on film is borderline insane.
It would be a fitting end for the 2017 Giants, though, no?
Look no further than the NFC East for an example of why this NFL season has been one of the worst in memory for the league. The Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., the Eagles’ Carson Wentz, and the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott are the best players on their respective teams. Beckham (broken ankle) and Wentz (torn ACL) are out with season-ending injuries, and Elliott on Sunday is serving the final game of a six-game suspension for domestic violence. Throw in Washington’s continued use of a racial slur as its nickname and you’ve got quite the division.
Landon Collins offered a public message of support for Eli Apple this week, and Apple thanked him by impugning Collins’ integrity and calling him a liar, denying Collins ever had tried to counsel Apple as he’d claimed. Apple had better be careful because wearing out a welcome in one team’s locker room is one thing, but this is the type of behavior that shortens careers.
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