The Giants have yet to make a final decision on when or even whether to draft a quarterback who eventually could replace Eli Manning, but there is an unmistakable transition taking place.
And no matter what decision is made — or not made — in next month’s draft about selecting Manning’s potential heir apparent, the 36-year-old quarterback assuredly has been put on notice.
If that wasn’t made clear the day after the Giants’ 38-13 loss to the Packers in the wild-card round in January, when general manager Jerry Reese acknowledged that the Giants have to begin looking for Manning’s successor, it was reinforced on Wednesday when coach Ben McAdoo publicly chided the quarterback for committing too many mistakes last season.
McAdoo included Manning among several culprits for the Giants’ offensive failings, and the fact that he did so with little regard for any ill feelings on Manning’s part speaks to the urgency the coach feels about turning around the offense. NFL coaches rarely criticize their quarterbacks in such detail.
McAdoo even detailed Manning’s need to improve his footwork and his need to ignore what he called a “dirty pocket” when his pass protection breaks down. So even if the Giants don’t come away with a quarterback in the draft, it is obvious from the coach’s tone that Manning is on the spot.
This year’s quarterback class isn’t regarded as particularly talented or deep, and there is a disparity of opinion on whether there is even a passer worthy of the first overall pick. But this is a passing league, and teams routinely push the envelope with the passers coming into the NFL by choosing them higher than they should be taken.
The Giants are in the process of addressing that issue, and their intense interest in this year’s quarterback class is the latest proof.
Unlike previous drafts, when the Giants had the luxury of knowing that the durable Manning didn’t need to be replaced, they have interviewed most of the quarterback prospects during the NFL Scouting Combine here.
And while it remains to be seen whether they will act on the intelligence gathered, it seems increasingly likely that they will draft a quarterback — perhaps one whom they envision as a potential replacement for Manning.
With the 23rd overall pick, the Giants aren’t in a prime position to get one of the top quarterbacks, especially given the need at the very top of the draft, where quarterback-needy teams such as the Browns, 49ers, Bears and Jets currently sit.
But with such differing views on the talents of this year’s class — which is highlighted by Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina, Deshawn Watson of Clemson, DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame and Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech — they could be in position to draft a quarterback early.
[/DROPCAP]Even if the top four passers are gone, there is a solid second tier from which to choose, a group that includes Nate Peterman of Pittsburgh, Brad Kaaya of Miami, Josh Dobbs of Tennessee and Cooper Rush of Central Michigan.
Even if a quarterback is added to the Giants’ roster, there is zero chance that he will be an immediate replacement for Manning, who still has two or three seasons of quality football left.
McAdoo certainly won’t give a thought to going with a younger quarterback until he knows it’s time, and he actually might be doing Manning a favor by chastising him for shoddy footwork and too many turnovers. Manning had 16 interceptions and four lost fumbles this past season, and although the Giants’ offensive line has been a frequent punching bag of criticism, McAdoo didn’t absolve his quarterback.
“I think that’s an easy blame, an easy one-liner that you can throw out there and think you have all the answers,” he said of the condemnation of his offensive line. “I don’t necessarily agree with that. The offensive line, they need to play better, I agree with that. I think Eli needs to do a better job playing with fast feet and he needs to sit on that back foot in the pocket. He’s got to play with fast feet, he has to sit on his back foot and be ready to hitch into a throw.
“Things aren’t always clean in this league,” McAdoo added. “You watch film throughout the league and you’re seeing a lot of dirty pockets.”
Manning always has done a terrific job of tuning out the noise from outside the organization, but it will be interesting to see how he processes McAdoo’s censure. It will be even more interesting to see how he deals with the prospect of a new teammate who plays the same position.
If the Giants do wind up taking a player they view as their quarterback of the future, Manning will enter a decidedly new and challenging chapter to his career.
Most likely the final chapter.