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Giants position review: Quarterback — a future with or without Eli Manning?

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Giants face short-term and long-term decisions

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback. No one wants to talk about the New York Giants and the quarterback position, do they? Because that’s where we are in our series of position-by-position reviews of the Giants’ 2018 season.

We’re at the point where we talk about Eli Manning. For the umpteenth time. Can we say anything new about Manning? Or about his 2018 season? Probably not. Let’s do this, anyway.

2018 review

Here are some of the numbers:

  • A career-best 66.0 percent completion rate. Some of them were actually good throws. Some of them were meaningless check downs where he turned down deeper throws.
  • Twenty-one touchdown passes. Some actually meant something. Some came in garbage time.
  • A total of 4,299 passing yards, fourth-highest of his career. Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t run for all of those yards.
  • A career-low 1.9 percent interception rate. Some of you will think that’s good. Some of you will think it’s because all he did was check the ball down.
  • Manning was sacked a career-worst 47 times. Some of them were probably his fault. Most of them weren’t.
  • A passer rating of 92.4 and a QBR of 51.2. Both his best numbers since 2015. But, the Giants missed the playoffs. Again.

I could list more, both good and bad. That, though, is kind of pointless. You will see the numbers, just like everything else, with Manning, through whatever lens you want to see them. He’s good. He’s bad. He can still play well. He stinks. He should be the Giants’ quarterback in 2019. He should have been kicked to the curb years ago.

You already know what you think. You aren’t changing your mind.

So, let’s move on.

Did we learn anything about the guys behind Manning?

  • We learned that Alex Tanney is a really nice guy who it seemed Giants fans didn’t really ever want to see play. He never did.
  • We learned that Kyle Lauletta needs a better alarm clock, and that he really should take an Uber to work. We really didn’t learn anything about what kind of quarterback he could be. An 0-for-5 in one quarter of play really isn’t enough to go on.

Let’s get to the really important stuff. What happens in 2019 and beyond for the Giants at quarterback?

2019 look ahead

Let’s talk about options. The Giants have a lot of them.

Stick with Manning

Coach Pat Shurmur has said he “absolutely” wants Manning back next season.

“I think everybody thinks I’m nuts, but I’ve seen the good in Eli and I believe in the good, especially in the quarterback position,” Shurmur said. “I believe everybody around him has to do their job as well. I certainly hear things, but I believe in him.”

GM Dave Gettleman said that Manning “can make the NFL throws ... He’s still got it,’ but still did not guarantee Manning would be the first Giants player to get a 16th season with the franchise.

“I’m committed to making the best decision in the interest of the New York Football Giants. That’s what I’m committed to do,” Gettleman said at his season-ending press conference. “my commitment is to make this team the best team it can be and if that happens to have Eli playing quarterback, it does.”

Manning still has a contract for next season, with a $23 million cap hit. The Giants can save $17 million by cutting him.

If the Giants want to justify keeping Manning in place for another season, they can. The can point to his overall statistics, and they can point to the team’s improved offensive play the second half of the season and say they don’t want to disrupt that. The Giants averaged 23.1 points per game, up from 15.4 the previous season. The Giants averaged 27.3 points per game over their final eight games. That’s progress, and if the Giants want to hang their hat on it they can.

If the Giants want to justify moving on from Manning, they can. The Giants have missed the playoffs six of seven years and haven’t won a playoff game since winning the 2011 Super Bowl. Manning is 38. He doesn’t have the mobility of the younger generation of quarterbacks entering the league. Gettleman did say that the Giants can’t simply keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. If they want to say it’s time to stop trying to make it work with Manning and try something else — pretty much anything else — that is understandable.

The veteran options

Nick Foles — The Philadelphia Eagles’ “backup” is the apple of many eyes. Foles to the Giants, though, is probably not realistic.

Joe Flacco — Throw Flacco’s name into the mix and the reaction is overwhelmingly negative. As a placeholder should Manning retire, though, Flacco is probably a more realistic option than Foles.

Teddy Bridgewater — If the New Orleans Saints don’t keep him, many Giants fans want him. But, what are the Saints telling us about Bridgewater if they let him get away.

Others — Toss in just about name you want. Tyrod Taylor. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Whoever. Me? I would keep an eye on young guys like Kyle Sloter (Minnesota Vikings) who really don’t have a path to playing time with their current teams. Perhaps even as potential backups if Manning stays.

Duke v Northern Illinois
Daniel Jones
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 2019 NFL Draft

You know the names already, and you probably have your favorite. The guys who are getting first-round consideration are:

Haskins is QB1 in this class, per most evaluator. Murray is the wild card. Will he declare? Will he stay with baseball, as he is already signed with the Oakland A’s? What do NFL teams really think of him? Jones might be the dark horse. Evaluators seem to believe he will go in the first round, and his exposure at Duke to quarterback guru David Cutcliffe works in his favor.

Even if the Giants draft one of these guys it would seem likely they would need a veteran placeholder. Which, again, might lead back to Manning.