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Kurt Warner: Uncertainty will be Eli Manning’s enemy this season

Warner discusses Giants’ quarterback transition

Kurt Warner
Photo by Ed Valentine

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Kurt Warner said on Thursday that the most difficult thing for Eli Manning to deal with this season will be the uncertainty of when or if the New York Giants might turn to first-round pick Daniel Jones.

“It’s always hard,” Warner said. “No matter what and no matter how confident you are you understand the dynamics of the situation.”

Warner, of course, has been through this. He was the starting quarterback for the Giants the last time they went through a quarterback transition. That, of course, was Manning’s rookie season, when Warner went to the bench in favor of the rookie after nine games.

“When you’re the veteran guy and you know there’s a guy behind you that eventually is going to play it was always one of those things where you had to fight not playing worried about making a mistake or getting tight and playing differently than you did before.”

Warner knows the question that will always be in Manning’s mind is “how long is my leash?”

“Go play. You’ve gotta play your game and if you don’t you’re not going to hold the job for very long anyway.”

The Giants, of course, drafted Jones No. 6 overall. Coach Pat Shurmur has been effusive in his praise of Jones, saying the Giants “haven’t seen anything” the rookie can’t do. What Jones almost certainly won’t do is open the season as the Giants’ starting quarterback.

Warner said his situation, where he was in his only year in New York, differs from Manning, an iconic figure who is now the longest-tenured player in Giants’ history.

“I knew that it was just a matter of time,” Warner said.

Warner said he was just trying to play as well as he could for as long as he could and earn another opportunity elsewhere, which he did with the Arizona Cardinals.

Whether Manning is still an NFL player in 2020 is an open question.

Manning’s difficulty this season will be not knowing what bad stretch will cost him his job.

With Eli, again, you always want to be able to go out on your terms, right? You want to be able to dictate. And what you realize in this business is you can have a bad half. You can have a bad game, you could have a couple of bad games. It doesn’t mean you can’t play anymore,” Warner said. “But that becomes the hard part is when you’re in entrenched as a starter, you get the luxury to have a bad game. Or, you know, bad season or whatever that is. When you’re a starter and there’s a guy right behind you, you don’t always get that luxury.”

Warner said he doesn’t believe the Giants will force a switch to Jones and likely won’t consider it until “you kind of feel the season’s out of hand.” He said the Giants “don’t have to make that move in the middle of the season” if they are still in playoff contention.

Warner was removed from the lineup by Tom Coughlin despite the Giants being 5-4 and in the thick of playoff contention. He said Manning was “without a doubt” farther ahead in 2005 because of the seven games he got to start.

“If you’re ready to move to the next guy you want to give him every opportunity to go through growing pains,” Warner said. “There’s no way you can learn how to play this game without playing the game.

“You can’t become the player you’re going to be by sitting back and watching. You have to get experience. You have to face things ... you’ve gotta learn what you can and cannot do at this level.”

Warner said Manning knows Jones’ time will come.

“You know, the time is going to come where they want to go to the young guy. It’s just a matter is that midway through the season? Are they going to give me another season or are they willing to give me two more years and let him grow behind me like an Aaron Rodgers,” Warner said. “But if you don’t know that, that becomes the hard thing is pushing that completely out of your mind. Cause you know, I mean if you have a bad half and you know that everybody’s like, Oh, put it in the young guy, this, you know, you, you start to think about those things and it’s really tough to tune that out completely.”

Warner doesn’t see a different Manning than he played with in 2004.

“I don’t think there’s a question that he can physically still make the throws, still play this game,” Warner said. “He’s a quarterback that needs to play in more of a perfect world, but he’s always been like that.

Warner said if the Giants can protect Eli and allow him to play on “his time” that he “can still play at a really high level.”