By Ernie Palladino
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Love Eli Manning or hate him — and there are plenty of folks on both sides of that coin — there’s no doubt right now that Todd Bowles wishes he had a quarterback like him.
Instead, he gets either an old journeyman like Josh McCown, who didn’t even play in the preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night, or Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty, the two unfortunates who did.
As hard as it is to put any worth in preseason games, the fact is that the world saw why a season’s outlook becomes perilously bad without experience behind the center. While it’s true that Bowles’ team exhibited all the traits of an offense that could reach historically horrible levels, that submersion will start with the quarterback.
After taking a closer look at Hackenberg and Petty while giving McCown the night off, Bowles should now be convinced that neither of the younger guys have the football wherewithal to lead their teammates. Aside from a leaky offensive line and a receiving corps devoid of talent, Hackenberg and Petty did themselves no favors in their performances.
Hackenberg got lit up on his first shotgun snap as defensive end Cornelius Washington came clean off the corner. He fumbled, his first of two in a workday that ended at halftime.
The Jets recovered, but Hackenberg didn’t. He finished 2-of-6 for 14 yards, and four of his five possessions went three-and-out.
Enter Petty in the second half. He did a bit better statistically, going 15-of-24 with an interception. And he got as far as Detroit’s 38 and 10 on two drives, the last helped by a 28-yard pass interference call. But he failed to get his team into the end zone.
McCown obviously is now the guy going forward, and you can write that in stone. All Bowles has to do is make sure the 38-year-old comes out of Saturday’s Jets-Giants game unscathed to at least preserve the hope of something better than 1-15 this season.
The Giants don’t have those worries. Manning may have his faults, as his critics eagerly point out every year. The throws that have led to so much head scratching, and the fumbles. But at least Ben McAdoo knows he has a reliable, stable, and experienced quarterback at the helm.
That will make itself evident Monday even before he takes his first snap of the preseason in Cleveland. Manning will come out wearing a glove on his left (non-throwing) hand. He has worn it all through training camp and now plans to wear it in games.
Not for warmth, mind you. For the grip.
He figures if it helps him avoid a fumble or two — he’s dropped it 104 times and lost 46 of those in a 13-year career — why not?
It comes with the wisdom of age and success. If nothing else, Manning has always looked to improve.
By the time he finishes his quarter and change, his numbers may well look nearly as bad as Hackenberg’s. They did last year when he went 4-of-9 for 44 yards in four series against Buffalo. But regardless of how rusty Manning may look after sitting out the preseason opener, there will be no quarterback controversy. There has been no quarterback competition, open or otherwise.
Davis Webb must wait. He must limit his dreams to overtaking Geno Smith and Josh Johnson for the primary backup spot. And even if he does, it may be a long time before he sees any meaningful action, since the durable 36-year-old Manning has designs on playing until he’s 40.
Thus, Manning remains the Giants’ guy, ready to avail himself of a juiced-up receiving corps featuring Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall.
For that fact alone, McAdoo must have an incredible sense of security.
Bowles only wishes he had that.
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