As 2018 dawns, the New York Giants are facing their most important off-season in almost 40 years after firing both their head coach and general manager in-season.
We don’t yet know how the Giants’ offseason will play out. And rather than offer my own ideas on how to fix the Giants — our wayward writer InvictusXI will be doing that in his thorough multi-part series. Instead, I just want to look at a variety of potential scenarios the Giants’ could follow.
Which of these scenarios is the most likely might depend on who the Giants hire to be their next head coach.
As of this writing the Giants are set to interview Steve Spagnuolo, along with outside candidates Eric Studesville (former Denver Broncos assistant head coach and running backs coach) and New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Friday, Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.
The course the Giants’ off-season takes will be charted by Dave Gettleman and the head coach once the Giants’ staff is set and familiarizes itself with the Giants’ roster.
There are some things we pretty much know will happen, such as the Giants investing in the offensive line — but we still don’t know exactly what that will entail. Will it mean double, or even triple dipping into the draft, which Gettleman was want to do in Carolina? Could it mean re-signing several of the Giants’ own free agents, such as Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg and simply adding a piece or two around them? Or could it mean blowing the line up completely and starting from scratch?
While those of us on the outside might have their own opinions, right now we don’t know what the eventual staff will decide to do. The biggest domino though, will be the future of Eli Manning, and how the team elects to deal with the quarterback position.
Scenario 1 - Eli Manning leaves
Eli loves the Giants, and loves being the Giants’ quarterback. But what if he doesn’t want to go through another rebuilding process? What if the new regime wants a fresh start for themselves? Or what if the debacle of benching him has left such a bad taste in his mouth that he would rather just make a fresh start to the end of his career elsewhere?
New GM Dave Gettleman was supportive of Manning, but his statement left some room for the Giants to go in another direction.
“In regards to Eli, the bottom line is I’m an inveterate film watcher,” he said. “That’s what I do, OK? I haven’t had access to tape and I’m not avoiding the question, but obviously you got to look at the film. You got to see what’s cooking, and listen, Eli has won a lot of games. He’s a great competitor. He’s very intelligent and he and I are going to talk and if what I saw (against) Philadelphia was not a mirage, and I don’t believe it was, then we’ll just keep moving.”
This is probably the less likely of the paths the Giants’ off-season can take, but it is one that needs to be considered.
If the Giants do part ways with Manning, it almost certainly locks them in to selecting a quarterback at the top of the first round — as well as potentially dipping in to the free agent pool for a more immediate option.
Scenario 1a - The Giants trade Eli
If Manning and the Giants part ways, this would be the best scenario. It is, however, entirely at Eli’s discretion because of the no-trade clause in his contract. Eli would have to want to be traded — and to a landing spot of which he approves — in order for any trade to be possible.
There has to be some question about what the Giants can get for Eli. He is 37 and comes with a hefty contract, but the Giants will be eating at least some of that regardless of what happens and it is also clear that he can still lead an offense when his receivers hang on to the ball.
When we looked at possibly moving Eli at the trade deadline, Ed Valentine set a realistic and fair price at a first-round pick and a conditional future pick — or roughly what the Vikings paid for Sam Bradford.
Getting draft compensation for the Giants would give them the freedom to invest the second overall pick in a potential franchise quarterback while also having the ability add a first round talent to another position group.
If this happens, the Giants might not be quite as set up to win in 2018 as they would be if Manning stayed. However, they would have secured a player who might be able to become the face of the franchise while also adding a player who should be able to help immediately (as most first rounders are expected to do).
Scenario 1b - Manning leaves without compensation
This is the nightmare scenario for the Giants. It would mean that the Giants’ relationship with Eli got to the point where an amicable parting of the ways simply wasn’t possible and they had to cut him. They would still have part of his contract on the books as dead money, while also being (essentially) locked in to using their first round pick on a quarterback who might not be ready to play right away and not be able to get a player who will be much more likely to help them win in 2018.
While the new regime would have a blank canvas upon which to work, the franchise would be well and truly rebuilding. But in the NFL (and New York in particular) it is much easier to talk about a rebuilding process in February and April than it is to commit to it in October and November.
Scenerio 2 - Manning stays
This is probably the more likely of the scenarios. Eli is beloved in the Giants organization, and he would provide stability in the opening years of the new regime and (hopefully) a smooth transition to the next era of Giants’ football. This is the better scenario for the Giants, but there are still a couple ways this could go down.
Scenario 2a - Eli stays, Giants draft a quarterback
This is the scenario that is being discussed most widely, and the most widely expected to come to fruition. The 2018 quarterback class has been talked about as potentially special since before the 2017 quarterback class was drafted. The argument is that this is the highest the Giants have drafted since selecting Lawrence Taylor second overall in 1981, and hopefully the highest they will be drafting for a long time to come.
With a high pick and a highly-touted quarterback class, the reasoning is that it only makes sense to dip in to that talent pool when they all but have their pick of all of the top prospects (assuming the Cleveland Browns draft a quarterback with the first pick). This isn’t the time to get into the individual prospects, they haven’t even all declared for the draft yet.
If the Giants do go with a scenario in this vein, they will have Manning to teach whichever quarterback they select how to be a consummate professional. It will also give him time to develop without being thrown into the pressure cooker that is New York sports.
Scenario 2b - Eli stays, new regime goes for the win
Perhaps the Giants’ leadership decides to stick with the plan going in to the 2017 season: Add a couple pieces around Manning and do what is necessary for him to ride off in to the sunset with a third Super Bowl ring and perpetual bragging rights at the Manning family Thanksgiving table.
Part and parcel to this scenario would be the belief that despite the end result of the 2017 season, Giants have a talented-enough core of players to be championship contenders. This scenario would see the Giants using the second and 34th picks in the draft to add the (non-quarterback) players who could have the biggest impacts the earliest.
For me, as of right now, at the top of the draft that list of players is: Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State), Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State), Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB, Alabama), Quenton Nelson (OG, Notre Dame). These are the guys that I think are both among the cleanest players in the draft, the ones most likely to quickly become among the best at their positions in the NFL, and can be potential game changers.
Scenario 2c - Eli Stays, Giants stock the roster
This is the “Trade Back” scenario.
At of now, indications are that USC quarterback Sam Darnold will stay in school and it’s possible that the Giants don’t like any of their other options at they second overall pick. They might still want to go win a Super Bowl with Eli, but they will also want to look down the road.
The Giants do have a young quarterback on the roster with plenty of arm talent, athleticism, and a reputation for leadership and being a film junkie in Davis Webb. They could take the 2018 season to see his continued development while strengthening the roster for Eli’s twilight years. Trading back would give them the opportunity to add more players on rookie contracts, helping the future salary cap situation, as well as add young talent to the roster. It could also yield future picks which could be used as currency to trade up if the Giants don’t see enough from Webb and want to pick Darnold in 2019.
Moving back would also give the Giants better value if they want to draft for the offensive line. The second overall pick is probably a bit early to take one of the top two offensive tackles — Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame or Conner Williams of Texas — but that value improves later in the round. It’s even possible that a number of general managers balk at taking a guard like Quenton Nelson early, and he could be an absolute steal later in the first round.
It’s unlikely that the Giants would trade out of the top 10 completely, so they would still get a very talented player who could add much to the team immediately.
Writing this on the second day of 2018, I don’t know which direction the Giants’ off-season will take.
It’s much more likely that the Giants will go along one of the scenarios where Eli Manning remains the Giants’ starting quarterback. The general assumption now is that they will take advantage of their opportunity to draft a quarterback highly, but that isn’t written in stone.
Regardless of which way the Giants ultimately go, which scenario is closest to reality, there will be those who believe they made the right choice, and those who believe they went horribly astray.
We’ll just have to see what happens.