The central question that will hover over the New York Giants during the 2018 season, maybe even for the next several seasons, is whether or not they have chosen the right path at quarterback.
That path? Stick with 37-year-old Eli Manning, solidify the supporting cast around him, try to win. Then, hope that one or both of their two young developmental quarterbacks, each a mid-round draft choice, becomes capable of keeping them out of what GM Dave Gettleman refers to darkly as “quarterback hell” once Manning’s time is up.
Let’s examine that path as we complete our position-by-position previews today with quarterback, the most important of them all.
We have been over this — a number of times, in fact. Manning’s numbers last season were the worst he has put up since the Giants won the 2007 Super Bowl. Was that because he was in decline and can’t be a successful quarterback any longer, or because everything fell apart around him and he had no chance?
Gettleman and new head coach Pat Shurmur chose to believe the latter.
“We watched the film and he still has plenty of arm,” Gettleman said.
In another interview, Gettleman said “He’s our quarterback, we believe him in him ... he has not lost one bit of arm strength and I’m coming back (to the Giants organization) five years later.”
Will Manning justify that faith? Everyone has an opinion on that. He will have to for the Giants to be any more than an also-ran in 2018. Also to quell the inevitable calls for Davis Webb or Kyle Lauletta. Or, the accusation that the Giants chose the wrong path by not selecting Sam Darnold No. 2 overall, giving them their best chance at securing the quarterback position for the next decade.
Manning told me a couple of weeks ago that he is “on a mission” to prove the organization right:
“It means a lot that vote of confidence in me that they still believe I can perform at a high level and win games and win championships for this organization and I want to prove them correct,” Manning said. “I’m on a mission to continue to play well, play at a high level, get this team going and know that I can get this team back in the right direction and win a lot of games.”
What happens if he can’t do that? Then perhaps we find out if the other part of the equation, whether or not the Giants have an adequate heir apparent already in place, comes into play.
Let’s look at those two young quarterbacks.
The Giants made a mess out of the handling of Webb a year ago. First of all, former GM Jerry Reese drafted him as a potential heir to Manning without Ben McAdoo ever having met Webb. Then, with the season having gone up in flames, the Giants never got the third-round pick prepared to play and he finished the season without ever taking a snap.
The hirings of a new coach and new GM can often spell bad news for a young quarterback like Webb. Gettleman and Shurmur admitted they knew little about Webb, and the drafting of Kyle Lauletta appeared to put yet another roadblock in the way of Webb perhaps one day becoming the Giants’ starting quarterback.
Webb handled last season as well as could have been expected, then set out in the offseason to prove to the new Giants’ regime that he was worthy of their attention. Patricia Traina detailed for us how Webb worked this offseason to learn to avoid the pass rush, smoothed out his drops and worked to fine tune his throwing motion.
“Every day he does something a little bit better,” Shurmur said during OTAs. “He’s becoming more and more comfortable with our scheme and I thought he did some good things.”
Webb did look impressive during spring practices, but let’s remember that those are in shorts and t-shirts with no danger of actually getting hit. The real assessment of his progress will come in preseason action and, if the situation arises, whatever regular-season snaps he gets.
Where does the fourth-round pick fit in the Giants’ quarterback plans? He will enter training camp, and probably the regular season, as the No. 3 quarterback behind Manning and Webb. The long-term question is will he stay there, or, once he fully commands the offense and acclimates to the NFL can challenge or surpass Webb to be the backup and potential heir to Manning’s throne?
Gettleman said after selecting Lauletta in the draft he was “just too good of a value to pass up ... I really expected him to be long gone.”
When he was selected there were a number of analysts who applauded the move and expressed the belief that it was Lauletta, not Webb, who had the best chance to succeed Manning.
On the ‘Locked on Giants’ podcast, Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio told us he believes Lauletta “could develop into a better version of Case Keenum” and has a greater chance than Webb of being the long-term answer:
“I think it’s Lauletta,” Waldman said. “I think it’s because of the emotional IQ, the quiet feet, the understanding of how to handle pressure and how to anticipate and throw with confidence. Those are very underrated factors in quarterbacking.”
That may not play out in 2018 as Lauletta is playing catch-up to Webb in both his understanding of the Giants’ offense and the NFL in general. We will have to see if it plays out that way down the line.
In the league since 2012 after a record-setting career at Monmouth, the former undrafted free agent is now with his eighth team. The 30-year-old, who has played in just one game and thrown just 14 NFL passes (completing 10) seems like an insurance policy against injury. If Manning, Webb and Lauletta all enter the season healthy it seems doubtful there will be a place for him.
Full list of position previews
- Position Preview: Unreachable expectations for running back Saquon Barkley?
- Position preview: Why are the Giants collecting tight ends?
- Position Preview: Cornerback might be the Giants’ biggest question
- Position Preview: Safeties to play variety of roles in Giants defense
- Position Preview: Giants wide receiver spot is all about Odell Beckham
- Position Preview: “Very clear” Giants want to improve horrid special teams
- Position preview: Giants’ offensive line is different, but will it be better?
- Position Preview: Will the Giants’ linebackers take a step forward in 2018?
- Position Preview: Will the Giants be able to generate pressure off the edges?
- Position preview: The Giants’ new-look defensive line