It sounds like you had better get used to the idea of seeing the 'Bad Eli' pop up occasionally in a New York Giants' uniform for at least a few more years. During a conversation with Newsday's Tom Rock, Giants co-owner John Mara certainly made it seem like Eli Manning will be the Giants' quarterback for the foreseeable future.
"We still think he's in his prime and still has a lot of good years left," Mara said. "It lifts the whole franchise when you have a quarterback who can play at that level."
The level Manning played at last Sunday vs. the San Francisco 49ers, tying a career-high with five interceptions, certainly did not lift the Giants. It sunk them, tossing away a great opportunity to break a four-game losing streak.
Still, it was one horrific game in what has largely been an efficient, bounce-back season for the 33-year-old Manning after the 27-interception debacle of 2013.
The Giants do have a decision to make on Manning, and they have to make it fairly soon. Not now, or even after this season, but soon. Manning has one year left on his six-year, $97.5-million contract. His base salary next season, per Spotrac, is $17 million. The cap hit for the Giants would be $19.75 million.
Borrowing again from Rock, because he's right and he's already laid out the options, the Giants have three choices:
- Let the contract play out and make a decision after the 2015 season.
- Extend him after this season, which would free up cap space and answer the question about the immediate future of the Giants at quarterback. (My guess is this is the likely outcome).
- Cut Manning after this season, take the $2.25 million cap hit, and start over. (There is virtually zero chance of this happening)
Unless Manning completely implodes over the next six games my belief is that extending Manning for two to three years and creating some cap room is the right way to go.
As bad as things have been for the Giants the past couple of seasons, and as awful as Manning was Sunday vs. the 49ers, the window to win with Manning behind center is still open. Manning let the Giants down on Sunday, but through the first nine games of the season he was not the problem. He played well, like part of the solution. What was going on around Manning -- injuries, bad defense, unacceptable offensive line play, nightmares on special teams -- is why the Giants were 3-6 after nine games.
Manning can still play well, can still win, if the Giants give him a chance. He needs better protection. He needs a running game. He needs one more receiver, even with Victor Cruz healthy. He needs a defense that doesn't force him to need to score 30 points or more to win games.
Had the Giants been healthy this season I believe they were a borderline playoff team. A team that could have gotten to 9-7 and maybe, just maybe, with a few lucky breaks, gotten to 10 wins. That, however, was not to be. I also believe, as I've said before, that the Giants started with a flawed roster that included a core of young talent but remained a work in progress.
I believe the Giants are pointed in the right direction, 3-7 record not withstanding. With good health, one more good draft and a few good decisions in free agency I think the 2015 Giants could be a quality football team.
I think it would be a mistake to throw away that opportunity, completely blow things up and start over with a rookie quarterback. The time for that is coming. I don't think it has arrived.