EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eli Manning is not going to make this personal.
The Giants’ longtime quarterback today spoke for the first time since coach Pat Shurmur said Tuesday that he spoke to Manning last weekend about the importance of everyone on the 1-7 Giants playing better in the second half of the season, which begins Monday night against the 49rs in San Francisco. Shurmur delivered that message both to the entire team and specifically to Manning, because he plays the game’s most important position.
“The idea (is) that he’s going to get us on a run here and there will be no decisions to be made,” Shurmur said. “In other words, part of the conversation was, we trust you, we want to work with you, and we trust the fact that you’re going to get in there and help us win football games.”
Some of the media who cover the team saw the “no decisions will be made” if Manning and the team play well, and immediately wondered what will happen if Shurmur’s expectations are not met. Might Alex Tanney or rookie Kyle Lauletta get an opportunity to play?
Without specifically addressing that, Manning made it clear he’s not concerned about what-ifs. He maintained the posture he’s had for 15 years, which is focusing only on the team and what he can do to help the Giants win.
“You worry about this week,” Manning said. “We got the 49ers. I got a job to do, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
Manning was asked to elaborate on his conversation with Shurmur.
“Just get ready for the second half,” he said. “Go play well. We need to improve. Everybody needs to improve and get going, but I do feel like we’re close. We just got to score some more points.”
The follow-up query was, “For you personally, do you feel as if there’s a little more urgency going into this game given the record?” Personal concerns are not on Manning’s radar when he’s trying to get the team to play better.
“I think there’s urgency to get things going, for sure,” Manning said. “We got to get some wins. We got to get going, and everybody wants it. The team needs it, for the morale and for just the hard work and everything we put in. Just need to reap the benefits of the work, and feel good about what we’re doing.”
Shurmur today also took a more comprehensive approach when asked what he was looking for from Manning coming out of last week’s bye.
“We just want to play good football,” Shurmur said. “What’s important is, stick with the progressions, get the ball out on time, understand all the situational football. He’s done this at a high level for a very long time, and my conversation with him over the weekend is what coaches and quarterbacks do as you plot the course moving forward. He’s like everybody on the team, there’s areas where he can improve, we talked about that, and we’ll get ready to go and put all our efforts toward beating San Francisco.”
Manning said he appreciated the candid dialogue with Shurmur.
“It’s always good,” he said. “Communication is important. We’ve always been good at that, and be on the same page. It’s always helpful just knowing where everybody stands.”
Manning and Shurmur agree the path to second-half improvement begins with scoring more points. The Giants are 27th in the NFL at 18.8 a game. More specifically, they must be more productive inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. The Giants have scored just 10 touchdowns in 25 opportunities, a 40% rate that places them 31st in a 32-team league.
“I think it’s just scoring more points in the red zone,” Manning said when asked what’s been missing in the offense. “I feel like we’re moving the ball well. I feel like we’ve made improvements between the first four games and the second four games. Getting yards and moving the ball, and getting down there, and being a little bit more explosive. Now, we need to translate that into more touchdowns.”
As Shurmur has made clear, Monday would be a good time to start.
*Guard Jamon Brown, acquired last week off waivers from the Rams, will very likely make his Giants’ debut against the 49ers.
“We’re putting him in there and getting him ready to go like he’s going to start, just like we do every player,” Shurmur said. “From what I’ve seen already, we’ve spent a lot of time with him already, he’s a fast learner, he’s a big man – a really big man (6-3, 240 pounds), which I’m fond of in linemen – and he can move his feet. He was a starter last year on a team that won more than 10 games, so we were glad he was available. What we’ve seen to this point, we’re excited about getting him going.”
If Brown starts, it will be at right guard where John Greco started the previous two games. “We’ll probably stay with (Spencer) Pulley at center,” Shurmur said.
*The Giants signed wide receiver/return specialist Quadree Henderson to their practice squad and released running back Jhurell Pressley from the squad.
Henderson was waived on Tuesday, when the Giants activated rookie defensive tackle RJ McIntosh from the reserve/non-football illness list. The rookie from Pitt played in two games and averaged 7.8 yards on six punt returns and 22.4 yards on five kickoff returns.
“We had to make a roster move to get RJ up, he’s cleared,” Shurmur said. “We certainly can make a roster move all the way up until game day, so there’s always a chance we can bring him (Henderson) up. But we had to make a roster move that required us releasing someone and so we did that.”
Photos from the all-time series between the Giants and 49ers, which dates back to 1952.