Life After Eli Manning is a sobering and frightening prospect for a franchise that has been luckier than most at the most important position for the last 14 seasons, and for Giants fans.
Whoever will be picking the players and picking up the pieces for the Giants after this season, whether it is Jerry Reese or not Jerry Reese, will face a watershed moment in club history at next April’s NFL draft.
To draft the next franchise quarterback, or not to draft him, that is the question.
Because when you look at these incapacitated Giants, it is difficult to see them better than 3-13, with winnable road games only against the sorry 49ers and a Cardinals team that just might ask Adrian Peterson to run for 200 yards with Drew Stanton in for Carson Palmer, who has a broken left arm.
No one should think about pushing Manning out the door, because when Odell Beckham Jr. is back, he will at least have a chance, and will still give the Giants their best chance to win in 2018.
But in the meantime, it is time to get Davis Webb warming up in the bullpen.
And before long, it will be time to get Webb on the field, even if it means the end of Manning’s Ironman streak, so the franchise will have a better idea as to whether the rookie can be its next franchise quarterback.
“It’s something that if it ever were to get to that point, I’d want to have a conversation with Jerry and ownership on it,” McAdoo said Monday. “But it’s not to that point, and I don’t see that point coming. Eli’s our quarterback, I have 100 percent confidence in Eli.”
Because whoever will be picking the players and picking up the pieces for the Giants after this season, whether it is Jerry Reese or not Jerry Reese, could very well be staring at Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen at the top of the 2018 NFL draft.
There exists a sense of urgency around the quarterback position for the first time since then-GM Ernie Accorsi fell head over heels for Manning in 2004. The Eagles have their young franchise quarterback (Carson Wentz). The Redskins have theirs (Kirk Cousins) if they’re smart enough to sign him to that elusive long-term deal. The Cowboys have theirs (Dak Prescott).
This is how critical it is: the Giants should not be averse to drafting one of the young guns even if they think Webb has a chance to be the heir apparent. Because you better know.
Manning deserves better in the twilight of his career than to be playing behind this offensive line, without a running game, throwing to backup wide receivers.
This was supposed to be the year when Manning and the Giants were going to win their first playoff game since Super Bowl XLVI, and instead, everything has crumbled around him, and he looks helpless, buried alive under an avalanche of ineptitude.
Reese’s offensive-line gamble, combined with the signing of Brandon Marshall, combined with Beckham’s medical misfortunes, combined with Ben McAdoo’s play-calling foibles, combined with an overrated defense, were instrumental in sabotaging Manning’s 14th season.
Manning, for his part, has been unable to rise above the rubble. Intermittent accuracy issues have prevented him from any kind of sustained excellence. His lack of mobility has become all too glaring. When he doesn’t get the ball out of his hand at breakneck speed, he is too often in trouble. He hasn’t protected the Duke like it is a bar of gold.
Manning’s cap hit will be $22.2 million in 2018 and $23.2 million in 2019. Remember, John Mara is on record saying he wants Manning to retire a Giant. Mara is a more hands-on owner than his father Wellington — who mourned when GM George Young and coach Dan Reeves made Phil Simms a salary-cap casualty — when it comes to football decisions. The thought of cutting Manning must be anathema to the Son of Mara. If so, that would likely leave Manning as the highest-paid backup in NFL history in 2019.
The Giants will not trade Manning. He has that no-trade clause anyway. Unless and until they address the offensive line, it is sad to think that Manning could end his glory days mostly as the sacrificial lamb in 2018 until such time as his successor is ready to be thrown in the fire.
Manning, 37 in January, wants to play until he is 40. The winds of change, which no one expected to be howling this fiercely and this soon, are suddenly likely to blow away the best-laid plans of mice and men — and perhaps the best-laid plans of the classiest two-time Super Bowl champion a franchise could ever find.
Life After Eli Manning is not here yet. But it would be negligent of the Giants not to be ready when it arrives. Especially if it arrives sooner rather than later.