Shaun O'Hara Photo: Getty Images
We always felt like we were in the mix, regardless of our record. The season didn’t start off the way we wanted it to, but we’re improving on certain aspects of the game. And it’s a constant battle to get to that higher level of playing. That’s what we’re in the middle of right now.
It’s always frustrating to lose, and when you have a lot of talented players, you look out there and it really just falls on us. Because we have talent, and it really just comes down to the execution. And that’s what’s frustrating about this game. You go out there and as much as you try to play a great game, sometimes things just don’t go your way. And the tough thing to realize is that sometimes the other guys just beat you. They get paychecks, too. The important thing is not worrying too much about a loss. If you’ve lost a game, it’s, ‘How are you going to react the next week? How are you going to bounce back?’
As offensive linemen, we always hang our hat on the run game. But really, I think most offenses would like to say that they’re balanced in both run and pass, that they’re not one-dimensional. So we’ve never really set out to say that, ‘Hey, we have to replace Tiki and his yards.’ I think Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs have really done a good job of stepping in and really shouldering the running game.
But I think a lot of the credit for our offensive success has to go to Eli. I think that he’s done a good job of handling the defenses. I think that other defenses are realizing how good he is at picking up these blitzes and seeing what’s coming. And so we’re almost kind of seeing less blitzing from defenses than we anticipated.
Everyone in this locker room has always had faith in him. It’s the people outside this locker room, that don’t know anything, that really have doubted him. I’m just happy that he’s continuing to play the way that he has always played, and that he has prepared the way he has always prepared. So we know what he’s capable of and that he’s a talented quarterback.
I would describe Eli’s leadership as definitely being a leader by example. But the one thing people don’t understand is how hard it is to come in and be a leader at a young age. And very rarely do players come in and in their first three years in the league lead guys who’ve been in the league twice as long as they have. So that is the toughest aspect of leadership. I’m in my eighth year now and it’s still tough at times to put yourself in that leadership role. My first four years in the league, I certainly wasn’t ready for that role. So I think Eli has done a great job of handling it and he hasn’t forced any leadership issues on himself. I think he’s just done a great job of trying to be a leader by example. And, in time, that vocal leadership probably will come.
I work with him every day, so in my eyes he is our leader. For people who aren’t in meetings with him and aren’t with him every minute of the day, they don’t get to see that, so it’s kind of a snapshot of what they think is going on. So in my eyes, he’s our leader.
I mean, he’s not doing cartwheels trying to get guys to do stuff. He’s not going above and beyond and stepping out of himself. Eli is who he is. Eli Manning, by any other last name, is under a totally different set of circumstances. He’s not trying to be anybody that he’s not. He’s doing what he’s done since he came in – prepare, spend time watching film, knowing what he’s doing, working hard. None of that has changed for him since the day he came here.
For me, this season has been great. I love being a New York Giant. That goes without saying, being from Jersey. But it’s just really been great (after signing a five-year, $19 million contract extension in the offseason). I think, for me, it’s been great to be with guys that I’m familiar with, in a system and an offense that I know. That has really allowed us to elevate our game.
But it has been tough around here (the locker room after 10th-ranked Rutgers lost at home to unranked Maryland on Sept. 29). It was a big game. But a lot of credit has to go to Maryland. They’re a better team than I think people are giving them credit for. Every year Maryland upsets a top 10 or a top 15 team. Rutgers will bounce back. And there’s nothing wrong with being 3-1 right now. They’re going to do some good things the rest of the year. I expect them to rise up to the challenges. I know Coach (Greg) Schiano is going to have the team ready to go. And I know those kids are eager to get back on the field and get some wins.
I just try to remind everybody (in the locker room) that their (college) teams aren’t 3-1. Then they shut up pretty quick.