A Decade Ago, These 2 Could Have Been On Opposite Sidelines This Week

By Kimberly Jones
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It’s a shame there won’t be more on the line when Eli Manning and the Giants take on Philip Rivers and the Chargers 10 years later.

The Giants went into the 2004 draft with great conviction about Manning – especially from GM Ernie Accorsi — but were willing to settle for Ben Roethlisberger, if it came to that. The Giants, Tom Coughlin recalled this week, weren’t sure how it would play out until the draft unfolded.

When asked if he’s happy with the results, Coughlin answered by noting the presence of two Lombardi Trophies in the lobby of the Giants facilty.

“Philip Rivers has had an outstanding career in San Diego and Eli Manning has had an outstanding career here,” Coughlin said. “So I think you have a win-win situation there.”

We’ve said this before and will again: As it turned out, Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger each went to the franchise that was the best fit. In fact, these days, it’s impossible to imagine it any other way.

Coughlin’s Corner: On a weekly basis, Coughlin provides some of his best insight to Giants senior writer/editor Michael Eisen for “The Coughlin Corner,” which can be found on the team’s website.

In a season where Manning has been sacked a career-high 31 times and threw 15 interceptions in the first six games (only three since), Coughlin was asked if turnovers and sacks were the Giants’ biggest issues.

His answer was interesting, at least to us: “The green zone has not been very productive for us. I’m sure at the end of this thing when you look at it that’s going to be something that I’ve got to do some serious thinking about and evaluating. We haven’t been very good on third down, let’s face it. So there are lots of areas – protection.

“It’s not that we don’t know what we’re doing and it’s not that the quarterback doesn’t arrange the protections to give us the maximum opportunity. That does happen the majority of the time. But now we’re experiencing things that we haven’t had. What did we have last year, 20 (sacks) for the season? We’re not as productive.”

The quick translation: Manning has taken at least his share of blame, but count on GM Jerry Reese addressing the offensive line this offseason.

Jets Still Evaluating Geno: The Jets have learned a lot about Geno Smith. Not enough, but a lot.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll find out if Smith can get back to being more of the instinctive quarterback he was through nine games. The key — or at least a significant key — for Smith? The willingness to use his legs to make plays.

Smith knows this. Even though he wasn’t a running quarterback at West Virginia, how could he not know? Through nine games, Smith rushed 36 times for 172 yards and three touchdowns.

In the past three games, where he struggled mightily and saw defenses trick him? He had five carries for eight yards.
Smith has handicapped himself by getting away from instinctively taking off when rushing lanes are available. It won’t be surprising if he scrambles with more frequency Sunday, against the Raiders.

“I would say that’s one thing, just using my legs more, buying more time, picking up a few more first downs, picking up a few more yards,” he said. “It’s something I’ve got to do a better job at. There are lanes here and there. My mentality is to be an aggressive thrower, and I think I can make every throw. But there are times when I need to tuck the ball down and run.”

He’ll get no argument from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. During games, Mornhinweg can almost can see the wheels turning in the young quarterback’s head.

“I want him to play just a little bit more natural,” Mornhinweg said. “Lately, he’s been so focused on his read, his progression and making sure everything’s perfect. Hey, let it flow, play a little bit more natural like he has and turn it loose just a little bit – (get back to) that mentality.”

Mornhinweg then said something that Smith should never lose sight of: “I think his natural instincts have to show up (because) he has great instincts.”

Time isn’t necessarily running out on Smith – a poor rookie season with suspect surrounding talent shouldn’t doom any quarterback – but it’s running out on the 2013 Jets. When it comes to getting back to playing instinctive football, what does Geno Smith have to lose?

Stat of the day: The Giants are two games back in the NFC East but, it says here, would be leading the division if not for their ridiculous number of turnovers. They’ve committed 31 on the season, and are minus-11 overall in giveaway/takeaway. The Cowboys, if you’re wondering, are plus-12 in turnovers, tied atop the NFC with Seattle. The Eagles are middle-of-the-pack at plus-7 and have a quarterback, in Nick Foles, who has thrown 19 TDs and no picks. Yes, the Giants truly did beat themselves in 2013.

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