Home Sports Giants mailbag: A fascinating alternate Eli Manning reality

Giants mailbag: A fascinating alternate Eli Manning reality

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You ask, we answer. The Post is fielding questions from readers about New York’s biggest pro sports teams and getting our beat writers to answer them in a series of regularly published mailbags. In today’s installment: the Giants.

What do you think would’ve happened in 2004 if the Giants did not acquire Eli Manning and stuck with Kerry Collins? Who would they have drafted and do you think they still would have (won those Super Bowls)? — Ian Michael

Wow this is an interesting one. I was covering the Giants in 2004, and I was not completely on the “get Eli Manning by any means necessary’’ bandwagon. I was not alone. The team’s owner and patriarch, Wellington Mara, really liked Kerry Collins and wanted him to stay as the quarterback. He had to be talked into letting him go and convinced trading with the Chargers to get Manning was the way to go. Ernie Accorsi was going to take a quarterback that year. He loved Eli and really, really liked Ben Roethlisberger. Accorsi was not nearly as high on Philip Rivers.

If a deal could not be made on draft day with the Chargers, Accorsi would have sat at No. 4 and taken Roethlisberger. Sean Taylor, the great safety from Miami, went No. 5 to the Redskins. He would have been a phenomenal pick, but the Giants were all-in on a quarterback. Mara thought sticking with Collins and selecting offensive tackle Robert Gallery out of Iowa was a prudent move. Gallery went No. 2 to the Raiders and was a big disappointment. Collins was a real gunslinger and he certainly had plenty left in the tank and that big right arm. Do the Giants win two Super Bowls with him instead of Manning? I doubt it.

Kerry Collins and Eli Manning
Kerry Collins and Eli ManningJeff Zelevansky; N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The last time the Giants defeated the Cowboys or Eagles was in 2016. Can they finally beat either team this year? — Ricardo Gordon

They have to. That is the bottom line. The first step toward relevancy in the NFL is finding success in your own division. The Giants own a seven-game losing streak to the Eagles and a six-game losing streak to the Cowboys. This is unacceptable. Heading into the 2020 season, there is no doubt the Cowboys and Eagles are more highly regarded than the Giants and they will be picked 1-2 in the NFC East, in one order or the other, by most prognosticators. Pat Shurmur could not find a way in two years to beat either of these Giants rivals. That is the task that awaits Joe Judge. I am predicting he does not go 0-4 against these teams this season.

Can someone explain what in the world happened to Hakeem Nicks? Victor Cruz had the star power on the last Super Bowl team, but Nicks was, in my view, the best WR we had. But then he just nose dived after the SB and was soon out of the league. — Alex

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It is hard to believe Hakeem Nicks is only 32 years old. He could still be playing, hauling in passes with his massive hands. Instead, he has been out of the league since 2015. What happened to him is his lower body broke down. In a two-year span Nicks had 155 receptions for 2,244 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was every bit, as a first-round pick, the No. 1 receiver the Giants envisioned him to be.

Nicks had foot surgery before the 2012 season and in the second game that year, he tweaked his knee in a victory in Tampa. Incredibly, he was never the same after that. He dealt with other leg issues, lost his explosiveness and struggled to compensate for that loss. He only lasted one more year with the Giants, was not impressive in one season with the Colts and came back to the Giants in 2015 as a shell of his former self. His body gave out on him. He just could not run the way he used to.

Are injuries the reason for Nate Solder’s somewhat mediocre play over the last two years, and if so, what are the injuries and do they still affect him? — George Josiban

Nate Solder has not missed a game in his two years with the Giants and started all 16 games for the Patriots in 2017. Yes, he did get banged up in 2018, but he never missed a start. Yes, he was forced out of the Week 10 game last season against the Jets with a concussion but he started the next game. So, injuries are not the reason why Solder’s performance has not been good enough — a fact he makes clear whenever he is asked for reasons or excuses for his play.

There is no doubt the Giants are not getting nearly enough for their investment of $62 million they spent to make Solder (at the time) the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history. He is a great locker-room guy, dependable and professional and immensely popular with teammates and the coaching staff. It did not help him that when he arrived to the Giants he was asked to break in a rookie left guard, Will Hernandez. Solder at times had to concentrate on making sure Hernandez knew what he was doing and that hurt his own game. Solder is 32 years old and the Giants took his eventual replacement, Andrew Thomas, in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. For at least one more year, Solder gets to play left tackle, with Thomas likely starting out at right tackle.

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