EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning thinks the New York Giants are heading in the right direction, and the soon-to-be 38-year-old believes he has enough in the tank to lead them on another championship run.
A day after the Giants (5-9) were eliminated from postseason contention for the sixth time in seven years, Manning said Monday the team didn’t win enough of the close games earlier in the season in their 1-7 start. He was encouraged how the team rebounded after the bye week, winning four of five games before being shut out by Tennessee on a rainy Sunday.
“Yeah, I know I can play, I can make the throws,” said Manning, who has thrown for 3,689 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions while hitting almost 66 percent of his passes this season. “Yesterday, I made some good throws. So, it still feels like I can run around and make plays, and do a lot of good things. When there was a stretch when we were playing good football, and we just got to get back to it.”
An hour earlier, first-year coach Pat Shurmur said he believed Manning can still play.
When pressed about whether he wanted him back on the team, Shurmur said he wants all his players back. He noted the team has two more wins than last season with two games to play.
“Coach has had my back all year. He’s been great. He believes in me,” Manning said. “That makes your job easier, when the coach believes in you. We know we can play better. So, it’s a start.”
The Giants don’t have a quarterback in waiting. Rookie Kyle Lauletta, the fourth-round pick last year, was dreadful playing the fourth quarter a week ago against Washington. Alex Tanney is a journeyman backup.
General manager Dave Gettleman could draft a quarterback next spring, but New York needs help on its lines, linebacker and safety, just to name a few spots.
Signing a free agent will cost money, so the Giants have a lot to think about in the offseason.
Shurmur, who took over a 3-13 team, said missing the playoffs simply means the Giants did not attain their goal.
“Does that mean we’re failures?” he said. “No. What it means is we’ve got a lot of work to do. That’s what it means, and I want to finish this year in a way that shows that we’ve grown so that we’re at a different spot than we were a year ago to make some more of that growth that we all know needs to happen.”
Shurmur’s immediate goal is to win at Indianapolis this weekend and finish with a win at home against Dallas. He said he is playing to win and Manning is the guy who offers the teams its best chance. So he starts.
Shurmur added he believes Manning has a couple of good years left.
“I’ve seen him play good football, and I’ve seen how when we have a coordinated effort of protecting him, running the football effectively, and being able to run the ball throughout the game, it helps us,” Shurmur said.
The question for the Giants in the offseason is whether they will be able to provide Manning the type of offense in which he can thrive. If they can protect him and run the ball with No. 2 overall draft pick Saquon Barkley, he has the arm to make all the passes.
If they can’t, they might need a quarterback who offers the added dimension of being elusive.
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard has experienced two dismal seasons for the team after making the playoffs as a rookie in 2016.
“We’ve been fighting through a lot of stuff, showed some great things and showed some things that we need to correct,” he said, “and this will give us good momentum going into next season if we could finish strong and win two games against two really good teams.”NOTES: Shurmur did not know which of his injured players would be ready for Sunday’s game against the Colts, who improved to 8-6 with a shutout win over Dallas. C Spencer Pulley (calf), WR Russell Shepard (ankle), CB Antonio Hamilton (quad) were hurt Sunday. WR Odell Beckham Jr. has missed the last two games with a quad injury. Shurmur said the team is not shutting him down and he will play if ready.
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