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Coach Killers, Week 5: Should the Giants think about trading Eli?

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

It's been a long year for Eli and it's barely October. (USATSI)

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat.

Eli Manning, QB -- Giants

"If you think last week was awful, just wait."

This should be the slogan for the 2013 Giants, a pitiful collection of players and coaches pretending to be an NFL football team. The latest humiliation came courtesy of the Eagles, an outfit that features the 31st ranked defense, according to Football Outsiders.

But the Giants have an answer for that: The 31st-ranked offense. In that staring contest of futility, New York will not be denied. After falling behind 19-7 at the half, the Giants stormed back to take a 21-19 lead ... only to watch the Eagles score 17-straight points, aided by a four-play stretch that included two Eli Manning fourth-quarter interceptions. The Eagles scored touchdowns both times. And to bring home the point for anyone who was still unclear about this team, Eli threw another pick on the Giants' next possession.

Those nine plays -- punctuated by four incompletions and three Manning turnovers -- serve as a microcosm for a forgettable Giants season that's barely a month old.

It's too early to say the Giants have hit rock bottom, even if they're 0-5 and the coach described Manning's three picks and three intentional-grounding penalties as "demoralizing." Then again, we're not sure how it can get much worse.

Manning, meanwhile, sounded oddly upbeat about his performance this season.

"That's the thing," he said during his weekly radio appearance on WFAN. "I don't think I'm playing lousy. I think I'm seeing the defenses well. I think I'm throwing the ball accurately. So I feel like I'm in sync, my fundamentals are good, everything's kind of in place. It's just a matter of getting in some bad predicaments and not catching many breaks and just getting in some tough spots."

The stats suggest otherwise:

Manning's completion percentage from Weeks 1-5: 64.3, 57.1, 52.2, 48.6, 46.2.

He has seven fourth-quarter interceptions, which is right up there with well-known choker Tony Romo*

ProFootballFocus.com ranks Manning 25th among starting QBs, ahead of names like Christian Ponder and Chad Henne

FootballOutsiders.com has Manning 33rd, ahead of only Brandon Weeden and Blaine Gabbert

Then there's this (data via FO.com's efficiency ratings):

While the current predicament probably has less to do with Manning than a genuinely awful offensive line, a nonexistent running game and a suspect defense, it doesn't change the fact that he is pressing to do everything himself.

"I honestly believe that he's trying so hard to get us a win, he's almost put too much on himself," Coughlin said after Sunday's loss. "He keeps it all pretty much inside. I'm not making excuses. There were a couple of those plays that were terrible."

On Monday, the coach told reporters that "Criticizing the quarterback for the outcome or for everything there at the end of the game is not right. ... [Eli] is trying the best he can. He's certainly trying to do too much. He knows his team. He knows his responsibility. He's an extremely accountable guy, and he's going to try and do as much as he can. Sometimes, it's not to be done that way."

Coughlin said the blame should shift to him, although the aforementioned shortcomings of the O-line, running game and defense have all had non-trivial roles in the oh-for-2013 start.

So now what? How do the Giants get out of this rut, one that has a lot to do with their franchise quarterback looking overwhelmed and undermanned every week?

Manning's solution is a simple one: "Everybody's got to step it up a bit," he told WFAN. "So obviously I've got to play smart. I've got to protect the ball. That's the No. 1 thing, and I know it."

In this case, the gulf between words and action is vast. Whether Manning can bridge that gap is the question. History says no.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Giants are the third team in NFL history to allow 30 or more points in each of its first five games, and the second to turn the ball over at least three times over that span.

There's more: The 182 points allowed is the fifth-most in league history through five games.

Which leads us to something CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote Monday: The Giants should seriously consider trading Justin Tuck and/or Hakeem Nicks (both are in the last year of their contracts), stockpile draft picks, and if they really want to bring either player back, they can do so this offseason.

For it to get to that point, the Giants would have to admit that the 2013 season is lost. While we haven't heard any public concessions, there certainly must be ongoing internal discussions about the future of the franchise. And that reality brings us to this one: Should the Giants think about trading Eli?

Not because he's holding back this offense but because he's one of its few bright spots.

The biggest obstacle -- other than, you know, the organization loving Eli -- is the cap charge. If Manning were traded this season, it would cost the team roughly $14.85 million. That's not chump change, especially when the idea is to fix the roster with limited resources. But if the Giants truly are going to have to blow this thing up and start over, Manning would bring the most trade value. Of course, that would mean they would be without the one must-have for any championship team: A franchise quarterback.

But if the organization falls in love with, say, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater or UCLA's Brett Huntley, maybe it's worth the risk. We're guessing the Jags would happily swap the a boatload of picks -- including the first overall -- for Manning. Another option: Try to find this year's Alex Smith, who has been the perfect game manager for Andy Reid's offense in Kansas City, use him as a bridge to the next franchise QB, all while rebuilding the roster.

Look, we know this is out there. And we also realize that Manning has two Super Bowl rings. But what if this is the beginning of the end of the Giants' run?

It's entirely possible; just look at the Steelers. In one sense, these teams are the victims of their own success. At some point, picking in in the bottom third of every round catches up to you. Miss on a few draft picks, the snowball picks up steam and the next thing you know you're staring 0-5 in the face with no answers on how to fix it.

Hey, maybe we're, ahem, overreacting. Then again, maybe we're not.

Either way, no rest for the weary; the Giants face the Bears on Thursday night.

* In case it's not obvious, that was a joke. We're huge Romo fans.

Mike Wallace, WR -- Dolphins

Wallace is tied for the NFL lead in dropped passes. (USATSI)
First, the good news, and this won't take long: Mike Wallace had five catches for 105 yards in Sunday's loss to the Ravens.

With that out of the way, everything else ...

Wallace had three drops in the game, and now has six on the season. That's tied for worst in the league with Denver's Eric Decker, according to ProFootballFocus, which ranks Wallace 104th out of 105 NFL wide receivers, ahead of only Kenny Britt (FootballOutsiders ranks him 69th).

On Monday, Wallace took the blame for, well, all of it.

"That's my fault," he said, via the Palm Beach Post. "Everything. Whatever happens is my fault. ... We could all do a better job, but anything involving me is my fault, because I could do better. I could do better catching the ball, running routes, blocking, whatever."

The Dolphins have the bye week to fix it, although history suggests it will take longer than that. Wallace, who signed a five-year, $60 million contract in March, wasn't particularly effective with the Steelers last season. And, fine, blame new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but how do you explain this year's lack of production?

Wallace is averaging 12.8 yards per catch through five games, which would be a career low. In 2012, his worst with the Steelers, he averaged 13.1 YPC. And that was down from 19.4, 21.0 and 16.6 during his first three NFL seasons.

Last week, Wallace admitted to being concerned.

"I'm definitely worried about it because it's Game 4," he said last Wednesday. "I'm not paranoid or anything but in Week 4, it's not the way I imagined my first four weeks going. Definitely not. I'm pretty sure it's not the way anybody imagined it going. So for myself, and starting with myself, [quarterback] Ryan [Tannehill] and coaches, we all got to do a better job and find a way to make it work."

And Wallace's on-field chemistry with second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill appears to be one of the biggest factors. Both confessed during training camp that they weren't yet on the same page and that apparently hasn't changed.

Also not helping: the Dolphins' offensive line is a mess. The sobering details via PFF:

Drive after drive was halted by sacks, pressures, and/or dropped passes. It wasn't just that Miami's offensive line was getting beaten -- it's that they were losing immediately. [Tannehill] faced pressure on 17 of his 46 drop-backs, but the average pressure came in just 2.3 seconds. To give some context, the average time to throw in the NFL this season is just under 2.8 seconds and only 37 percent of passes have been thrown in less than 2.3 seconds.

Wallace's strength is stretching defenses, and granted, it's hard to get open down the field when your quarterback has 2.3 seconds to get rid of the ball. But that still doesn't explain the drops.

Last December, when it was clear that Wallace and Pittsburgh would be going their separate ways after the season, the wideout said that maintaining focus became an issue in Haley's dink-and-dunk offense (Big Ben's words, not ours).

"I've never been a guy who dropped balls or just lose focus," Wallace said at the time. "The first three years I was always involved, so you just warmed up in games, and were just into it.

"But when you don't get the ball for two-and-half quarters, you lose focus. But that's the type of offense this is. We're spreading it around, so you're not going to get as many targets. When you get them, you have to make the best of them."

Sounds familiar.

Matt Schaub, QB -- Texans

We feel like we've been down this road before. Like, say, seven days ago.

There's really not much to add: Despite Matt Schaub's fondness for pick-sixes he shouldn't be benched. Partly because it's not entirely his fault (coach Gary Kubiak is calling the plays, some of which Schaub can't audible out of), but also because backup T.J. Yates isn't the answer to any question other than "Name the only UNC quarterback to ever start an NFL game."

And dumping Schaub would be even dumber than benching him.

Unlike above, where we wondered if the Giants would be better off trading Manning, even at a cap charge of nearly $15 million, the Texans' season isn't close to being over. They're 2-3. This is the same team that won the AFC South in back-to-back years with virtually the same players.

So a steady-as-she-goes approach makes the most sense for the time being, although all bets are off in the Texans' don't recover from this tailspin. In the meantime, Schaub can do a few things to avoid the mistakes that have plagued him this season.

1) Under no circumstances are you to make this face. Ever:

It screams "I HAVE NO SELF-CONFIDENCE AND I MAKE MYSELF SAD. CAN I HAVE SOME FROZEN YOGURT?"

Seriously, stop it.

Yes, you threw ANOTHER interception that was returned for a touchdown, and yes it was YOUR VERY FIRST pass of the night. But, look, as an NFL quarterback there's just no room for wallowing in self-pity. Your coaches, your teammates, the opponents, the fans -- everybody -- can see it and it only gets worse from there.

So, yeah, don't do that anymore.

2) Lean more on the running game. Yes, Arian Foster and Ben Tate are averaging 19.4 and 8.2 carriers per game, respectively. Give it to them more. Plenty of successful offenses that are built around the running game, and you don't need a read-option quarterback to make it work. It will also open up things down the field for Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Which reminds us ...

3) Throw the ball down the field more. If nothing else, it will eliminate the naked bootleg pick-sixes that have become a staple of the Texans' offense. Think of it this way: Worst case, it's a 40-yard punt. It's not ideal, but it's not six points going the other way, either.

4) Just so we're clear: No more SchaubFace, please.

Here's to hoping that Schaub has the NFL equivalent of the yips. And once he makes it through a game without throwing an interception, he'll again resemble like the guy who helped the Texans to back-to-back playoff appearances. Because, really, no one wants to have this conversation.

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