Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions last season. On five occasions, he tossed at least three picks, and no matter what metric you use, he was one of the NFL's worst quarterbacks. (Football Outsiders ranked Manning 42nd out of 45 QBs, ahead of only Geno Smith, Terrelle Pryor and Brandon Weeden; Pro Football Focus had him 40th out of 42, ahead of Smith and Chad Henne.)
To be fair, Manning wasn't the only reason the Giants limped to an 0-6 start (before finishing 7-9) and featured a 31st-ranked offense that was just inept on the ground as it was through the air. The offensive line was a mess, the running game was nonexistent, and the pass catchers struggled to make plays.
But Manning, who has two years left on the six-year, $97.5 million contract he signed in 2009, and will count $20.4 million against the salary cap in 2014, is entering his 11th season. And the Giants, according to ESPN.com's Dan Graziano, are concerned that he may never return to the form that resulted in two Super Bowl titles.
"There are those who wonder whether Manning is a player in decline at age 33," Graziano wrote Friday. "This is a question that has not gone unasked within the ranks of the Giants' front office. It is part of the reason the Giants decided not to try this offseason to extend Manning's contract, which runs through 2015, even though doing so would have offered them significant salary cap relief. They would like to see him pull out of his downward trend before they commit to his late 30s. Their hope is that he has a big year and that extending him next offseason makes sense."
While having a franchise quarterback is the first piece of the roster-building process, surrounding him with playmakers makes winning a lot easier. As it stands, the offense lost wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and have added Mario Manningham and Trindon Holliday. Not exactly a huge upgrade (particularly considering Nicks had a terrible 2014 season), but help could be on the way.
Depending on how the first 11 picks shake out on May 8, the first day of the 2014 NFL Draft, there's a chance the Giants could land 6-5 Mike Evans, the former Texas A&M wideout. (In the most recent CBSSports.com mock draft, both Rob Rang and Pete Prisco have Evans falling to the Giants at No. 12.)
Short of that, Manning will have to hope new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, the former Packers quarterbacks coach who replaces Kevin Gilbride, can revitalize an offense that sputtered for much of last season.
In February, McAdoo said the hope is that his offense will accentuate Manning's strengths.
“As Eli gets his hands on it and has a chance to get comfortable with it, we'll make tweaks here and there,” McAdoo said at the time. “Really, as the offseason and training camp goes on, every offensive system tailors towards the strength of the starting quarterback. What he does well and what he doesn't do well. At the end of the day, your system is built around the personnel, not the other way around.”