Booger McFarland and Joe Tessitore Were Dead Wrong About the Giants’ Flea-Flicker

In Tuesday’s Hot Clicks: Another rough night for Booger McFarland, Eli Manning isn’t dead yet and more.
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Are you sure about that, guys?

Screenshot of Giants' flea flicker play vs. Eagles on Monday Night Football

The struggles of ESPN’s new Monday Night Football booth have been well documented this season. Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland have taken their lumps from fans all year long, and last night was no different. 

The clearest example was this third-down play by the Giants in the fourth quarter. They needed 15 yards to pick up the first down and ran a flea-flicker, hoping to catch the Eagles defense napping. The play was blown up by Philly pass rusher Josh Sweat and Eli Manning was forced to throw a two-handed chest pass to Saquon Barkley, who was forced out of bounds for a loss of one. McFarland said the play call made no sense. 

“Well guess what, it’s a long-yardage situation so they’re not going to come up and play the run,” McFarland said.

“Nobody’s buying, as they’re dropping eight,” Tessitore chimed in. 

There’s just one problem: everybody bought it!

The issue there wasn’t that Manning couldn’t find an open receiver, it’s that he didn’t have time to do so. The porous Giants offensive line allowed him to get smothered almost instantly. Nate Solder just couldn’t hold his ground against Sweat. If he had given Eli another fraction of a second to get the pass off, he would have been able to hit Golden Tate streaking down the middle of the field for an easy score that would have given the Giants a two-touchdown lead. 

This animation from the NFL’s “NextGen Stats” shows just how fooled the Philadelphia defense was on the play. The two cornerbacks stayed with their men on the outside but all nine other players jumped up to play the run, including safety Marcus Epps in the middle of the field. That left Tate all alone with nothing but green grass (or turf) in front of him. 

And Tate knew it, too. 

McFarland drew plenty of criticism last week for a pair of verbal gaffes (calling D.K. Metcalf “Decaf” and getting the result of the “Minnesota Miracle” wrong) but at least those slips of the tongue weren’t related to analyzing the game. 

What McFarland said makes total sense—the Eagles defense shouldn’t have bitten so hard on the handoff in that situation. But you don’t have to be the omniscient Tony Romo to see Golden Tate running free down the middle of the field. 

Football is a complicated game and making it accessible to the average fan is incredibly difficult. If ESPN had a booth that made fans feel like they were learning something about the game, Monday Night Football would be must-watch TV every week in the way that CBS’s game of the week is with Romo. At the very least, they should have a crew that watches a replay doesn’t say the opposite of what really happened. 

Eli’s still got it!

I tweeted (very facetiously) after the throw you see below that Eli Manning can play another three or four years in the NFL. 

But you know what? After a few more plays I started to think it a little less ironically. 

He wasn’t great but he looked like Eli Manning, which is to say that he balanced out the moments of brilliance will plays that made you want to tear your hair out.

Yes, it was against a lousy Eagles defense and Eli should probably still retire (he was pretty lousy in the second half) but these last few games he’s going to get while Daniel Jones is out injured should be fun.

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