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Time for the Giants to begin preparing for life without Eli Manning

In shambles at 1-7, the Giants really have little choice

Los Angeles Rams vs New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Change has to come to the New York Giants.

I am already on record as saying that I believe that change needs to include head coach Ben McAdoo. The coach can say what he wants about not being concerned about his job status. But, he should be. Players can say what they want about continuing to play hard. But, at least some of them aren’t. Their play on the field and their lack of discipline off it tell you what you need to know — the coach does not have the respect, or the attention, of the players.

Change may also need to come at general manager. I have certainly been critical of Jerry Reese, and will continue to be. Sunday provided a first-hand look at a Reese offseason blunder as Los Angeles Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth, a player Reese judged to be too old, dominated Avery Moss and Jason Pierre-Paul as the Rams rolled to 51 points. Whitworth didn’t allow so much as a pressure.

What about change at quarterback?

Is it time for that? I have long been an Eli Manning defender. I have always thought there were people too quick to criticize him, and too harsh in their assessments of him. This season, I have often taken the position that is has been impossible to judge what kind of quarterback Manning is at age 36 because of the dysfunction around him.

What we saw from Manning on Sunday, though? I can’t defend that. The misses to wide open receivers Sterling Shepard and Tavarres King that should have been easy touchdowns? Both came with his feet set, no pass rush and with his targets wide open. Shoot, Manning actually missed King on back-to-back throws that should have resulted in touchdowns at the end of the half.

“It’s disappointing. We had chances down the field. We got to make those throws and make those catches,” said head coach Ben McAdoo. “It’s pro football. We got to catch them on all opportunities like that. You don’t get many in the game.”

Manning knows it.

“The one to Shep, I’ve got to hit that,” he said.

He had to hit one of the throws to King, too.

Manning is not THE PROBLEM.

The quarterback doesn’t draft the players or sign free agents. He didn’t fail to upgrade the offensive line. He didn’t ignore the linebacker position for a decade. He didn’t design an offense that hasn’t really worked for two years. He didn’t lose the respect of the locker room, as the head coach appears to have. He didn’t surrender 51 points on Sunday. He hasn’t gotten himself suspended. He doesn’t block, tackle or kick the field goals.

Manning’s primary job is to complete the passes. Sunday, he was undeniably part of the problem because he didn’t do that very well.

The bigger problem is this: Manning is 36 years old. Unless you believe that the Giants are going to magically fix all of their problems — and there are a lot — and morph into a Super Bowl contender next season, it is possible that Manning has played his last important football games for an organization he helped win two Super Bowls. As much as the Giants organization, and yours truly, doesn’t really want to face it there is a possibility the Giants won’t be a good, contending football team again while Manning is their quarterback.

Which means they need to get serious about their future.

Davis Webb is not the answer to all of the problems of 2017. We can argue forever about the wisdom of throwing him into this dysfunctional mess. Reality is, though, that the Giants need to learn some things about their 2017 third-round draft choice before this season is over.

The Giants are careening toward a top five selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. They have never won fewer than three games in a 16-game season, and I doubt it would surprise anyone if they manage that feat for the first time this season. That means they will have the option, should they want it, of selecting one of the top quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class.

There is plenty of time to argue about whether or not they should select one — and whether that should be Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen.

There are, however, only eight games left to gather information about the young quarterback they already have in-house — Webb.

I won’t advocate benching Manning. He has started 207 straight games, and considering his career accomplishments he deserves to continue starting them. At least until after he starts two more games to pass his brother, Peyton, to move into second place on the all-time consecutive starts list behind Brett Favre (297). Maybe until he gets hurt and can’t make it to opening snap. Manning might remain their best option at quarterback for 2018, as well.

I will advocate beginning to prep Webb. Activate him on game day — he’s been inactive for all eight games thus far. Even if that means deactivating Geno Smith. The ex-Jet isn’t really part of the Giants present, or probably the future.

Get Webb some snaps when the score dictates. In the final few games let him play a half.

Manning won’t go to the bench willingly.

“Hey, I want to be out there, I want to be playing. Yeah, I want to be out there,” he said when asked on Sunday about the possibility of losing playing time to Webb.

No franchise quarterback ever cedes their job easily, nor should they. In an ideal world, the Giants would be a good to great team, Manning would get at least one more Super Bowl ring before his contract runs out after the 2019 season and the Giants wouldn’t have to face this question right now.

Fairy tales, though, don’t always come true. Sports history is littered with star players who didn’t get the endings they wanted.

Will McAdoo make a move?

“You really can’t look from my chair too far ahead. But, you also have to look at getting some players some reps in the game. So, we’ll take a look and see if there’s any players that we can give reps to that have a chance to be a part of our future.

“That includes everybody.”

That is what McAdoo said Sunday night about getting snaps for young players, and specifically for Webb.

Thing is, it seems increasingly likely that the Giants’ future won’t include the second-year head coach. If he had, or gets, the assurance that he will be back in 2018 my guess is it would be a guarantee we would see at least some of Webb before the season ended.

Without such a guarantee? Manning still gives the Giants their best chance to win games now, and if McAdoo has any hope of saving his job he needs to win a decent number of the final eight games.

The Giants sit stalled at the crossroads of past, present and future. The right path in the current circumstances, painful as it is for those like myself who still believe Manning has some good football left, is to begin making earnest steps to figure out what a Manning-less future looks like. The wrong path is to be stubborn and not find out if they already have Manning’s heir on their roster.

Which will they choose? We will find out over the next few weeks.

By the way, I leave you with this just because I find myself thinking about it afte

r using the word “crossroads.”