We will never know whether Kyle Lauletta was one late arrival away from becoming the successor – albeit a potentially temporary one – to Eli Manning and making the end of Manning’s time with the Giants official.
Coach Pat Shurmur wouldn’t say Tuesday whether Lauletta would have been his starting quarterback in Monday night’s game against the 49ers -- if the rookie hadn't gotten busted last week for eluding police, obstructing justice and resisting arrest after violating multiple motor vehicle laws while trying to get to practice on time.
But if you were looking to connect the dots on Shurmur’s thinking, it wasn’t a stretch to think he was ready to give the kid a look now that the Giants are 1-7 and hopelessly out of the divisional race, even in an awful NFC East. Shurmur announced that Manning would be his starter against the 2-7 Niners, who have their own quarterback issues in the wake of Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending knee injury.
Shurmur is certainly mindful that the 49ers were able to soundly defeat the Raiders last Thursday night behind little-known Nick Mullens, a former practice squad player whose last pass in an actual game came in 2016 for Southern Miss. While Mullens hardly represents the future of the franchise, it was surely helpful for coach Kyle Shanahan to know what he has as a legitimate backup option behind Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard, who's also injured.
Shurmur is no closer to knowing what he has behind Manning than he was before Lauletta overslept last Tuesday and got himself into trouble at a time when he was presented with an opportunity to perhaps get his first chance at playing in the NFL. But Shurmur’s evasive answers about Manning lead you to believe that it may not be much longer before the coach sees what else he has at quarterback.
“I spoke to Eli a couple times this weekend and I explained to Eli that he’s going to start Monday,” Shurmur said. “I also explained to Eli that everybody needs to play better and as we go through this, it’s important that we’re not ‘almost’ in these games, we do what we have to do to get it over the top and win football games. We’ll just take it from there. But I spoke to the team about that, and then I also spoke to Eli about that specifically.”
Shurmur refused to be pinned down about making any pronouncements about which quarterback would start when the Giants return home next Sunday to face the Buccaneers.
“I told you, he is starting Monday,” Shurmur said. “You roll with it how you want, with the idea that he is going to get us on a run here and there will be no decisions to be made. In other words, part of the conversation was, we trust you, we want to work with you, and we trust the fact that you’re going to get in there and help us win football games.”
Unfortunately for the Giants, they’ve won only once with Manning, and with the season already having slipped away, there’s little incentive to continue viewing him as the long-term starter. In his heart of hearts, Shurmur knows as much, even if he’s unwilling to say as much.
It isn’t all Manning’s fault, not with an offensive line that has been nothing short of abysmal. General manager Dave Gettleman’s promise to field a group of “hog mollies” capable of protecting Manning and opening running lanes for Saquon Barkley has gone unfulfilled, and the immobile Manning has been a sitting duck behind what might be the worst line in football.
But let’s face it. Unless your name is Tom Brady and you are the beneficiary of consistently reliable blocking week in and week out, the days of pure pocket passers are dwindling. Manning has made his living as a two-time Super Bowl MVP in the pocket, and without the kind of blocking he got from the likes of Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee, Rich Seubert, David Diehl and all the other capable linemen who have protected him, he doesn’t stand a chance in today’s NFL.
At 37 and with a bloated salary-cap number in 2019, his days with the Giants are surely numbered.
Which is why Shurmur won’t – and shouldn’t – back himself into a corner with any promises of more starting assignments.
It’s an uncomfortable and awkward position for all concerned, but that’s how it goes when you get to this point in your career. Manning has been the most reliable part of the Giants since taking over the starter’s job in 2004, but that time soon will come to an end.
Had Lauletta not overslept last Tuesday, it might already have ended.