One of the few games the Giants’ new general manager, Dave Gettleman, saw from start to finish this season was the Giants against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 17. That’s the reason why his early thoughts are that Eli Manning remains the team’s starting quarterback, “as of now.”
Manning completed 37 of 57 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns in that game. He also threw an interception and the Giants blew a 20-7 lead and lost 34-29 in what has turned out to be a 2-13 season heading into Sunday’s finale at home against Washington.
Gettleman referenced that game against the Eagles when asked how he planned to handle the Giants’ quarterback situation.
“I’m not avoiding the question, but obviously you got to look at film,” Gettleman said during his introductory press conference Friday morning at the Giants training facility in East Rutherford. “You got to see what’s cooking. 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.”
If only it were that simple. Manning had a decent outing that afternoon. The Giants played with spirit and Manning got the most out of a banged-up offense. Their chance at victory was wrecked by three special-teams blunders and a scoreless fourth quarter.
Still, it speaks to the looming decision Gettleman must make for more than a sound bite: whether to retain Manning as the starting quarterback. It will be the first priority after naming a head coach and will be impacted by whether the Giants decide to draft a quarterback with what figures to be the second or third pick this April.
Manning shouldn’t be around if the Giants decide to select a quarterback in the first round. The notion of grooming his successor won’t work. The spotlight is too big for that and Manning has accomplished too much to be asked the kinds of questions he would have to face. Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Manning’s brother, Peyton, all finished in different jerseys. The Giants can rebuild without him.
If Gettleman decides Manning is still good enough to pass on a potential franchise quarterback and trade down to get a top offensive or defensive lineman, then Manning is worth keeping another year. Gettleman may have tipped his hand when he quoted Tom Coughlin saying, “Big men allow you to compete.”
To decide on Manning, Gettleman will have to look at more than the Philadelphia tape. If Manning played against the Eagles all season, he would be All-Pro. In Week 2, Manning completed 35 of 47 for 366 yards and three touchdowns in Philly. He also threw two interceptions and the Giants lost 27-24.
Aside from those two games, it was mostly mediocrity, with Manning completing as few as 48 percent of his passes in games against the Seahawks and Redskins and no higher than 76.3 percent he competed against the Cowboys (29 of 38 for 220 yards) in the season opener.
The truth is, Gettleman doesn’t have to watch any tape of Manning. Operating behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league, he had no chance after top receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall went out with injuries — and that’s just the beginning of a decimated receiving corp. With Tavarres King (concussion) and Sterling Sheppard (neck) ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Redskins, Manning will be throwing to basically the practice squad.
Should the Giants fall out of contention at any point Sunday, then rookie Davis Webb should be given a shot. Gettleman already knows Manning is a dedicated competitor, a leader, a pro’s pro. He doesn’t have to watch tape to know that.
The choice is simple: If Gettleman drafts a quarterback with the Giants’ first pick, then Manning will have to go; if the GM doesn’t pick a quarterback, then Manning will have another year to be the starter. Making that decision will be the hard part.