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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

It’s time for Jets, Giants to find their next quarterbacks

Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, left, and Josh Allen warm

Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, left, and Josh Allen warm up before the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Jan. 27 in Mobile, Alabama. Credit: Getty Images / Jonathan Bachman

ORLANDO, Fla.

Pat Shurmur and Todd Bowles spent the better part of an hour Tuesday morning avoiding any hint of which player they might choose near the top of next month’s draft.

Shurmur admitted there’s the “urge” to find a quarterback whom the Giants’ first-year coach can build around. Bowles said the Jets had six or seven potential targets in mind when they moved up from No. 6 to No. 3 in a blockbuster trade March 17.

But it’s time New York’s teams make the kind of generational history that can sustain their franchises over the next decade. With the second and third picks, respectively, it’s time for the Giants and Jets to find their next quarterbacks.

Neither Shurmur nor general manager Dave Gettleman will tip his hand on whether they’ll go quarterback, running back or defensive end with their pick, and Bowles and Jets GM Mike Maccagnan remain close to the vest about their plans. But with at least three quarterbacks looking like they have what it takes at the next level, the time is now to make the transition at the most important position in any sport.

Shurmur spoke glowingly of the top prospects during the annual coaches’ breakfast at the NFL’s spring meetings, saying, “These are all very talented guys who have a chance to be really, really good players.” But at the same time he showered incumbent Eli Manning with praise, calling him “the healthiest 37-year-old I’ve ever been around.”

But let’s face it. Even if Shurmur and Gettleman think Manning has two or three good years left, and even though the Giants spent a third-round pick last year on Davis Webb, you rarely get a chance to pick this high. Unless you’re the Browns, who have had the first overall pick two years in a row. But even Cleveland is ready to dip into the quarterback market, with coach Hue Jackson strongly hinting Tuesday that there’s a strong possibility the Browns will take a passer. The most likely choice is USC’s Sam Darnold, which would leave UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.

Two of those quarterbacks ought to call New York home.

Yes, it’s awfully tempting for the Giants to consider Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2. There are no major flaws in Barkley, and he looks to join Zeke Elliott and Leonard Fournette as virtual can’t-miss prospects. But tell me the last time a franchise running back turned a team into a Super Bowl contender — never mind a 3-13 team such as the Giants.

The answer is: There hasn’t been one. Running backs are important, no doubt, and great runners can provide a major upgrade. But they aren’t transformative players like quarterbacks, especially in a league where the passing game has never been more important. And with a gifted quarterback coach such as Shurmur, who helped get the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game last year with journeyman Case Keenum, there’s every reason to believe the Giants can come away with a passer who can serve his apprenticeship behind Manning and then be ready to take over once Eli is done.

The Jets have a more immediate need for a quarterback, but with Maccagnan bringing back Josh McCown and adding Teddy Bridgewater, he at least has bought some time for a young quarterback to develop. Bowles said Tuesday he’s not averse to starting a rookie, which means taking a quarterback next month could translate into the team’s passer of the present as well as the future.

It’s an unprecedented collective opportunity for the Giants and Jets to come away with a big-time quarterback next month, and one both teams must seize upon.

It’s time.

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