Pat Shurmur said he isn’t trying to be cryptic. He said he is not dancing around words. He said that in his mind, the situation is as clear as a deep route against an all-out blitz.
But as the offseason program for the Giants comes to a close this week, Shurmur, given several chances to provide a definitive public statement on the possible hierarchy of the team’s depth chart at quarterback when the season begins in September, instead seemed to be stirring the possibility of an open competition between Eli Manning and rookie Daniel Jones when training camp commences next month.
“Right now, Eli is getting ready to have a great year and Daniel is getting ready to play,” Shurmur said repeatedly on Tuesday. “We'll just see what happens . . . The players who give our team the best chance to win play. Period. We’ve seen Eli do that for a very long time, so we’ll see what happens as we go down the road.”
This from an organization that seems to delight in keeping verbal doors ajar just enough to slip storylines through the crack. It was Dave Gettleman who coyly and craftily stated earlier this offseason that he did not sign Odell Beckham Jr. to trade him, referring only to his intentions at the moment ink hit contract, so that when he did trade him he did not go against what he’d said.
Shurmur seemed to revel in just that kind of dynamic on Tuesday. But in this case, the two objectives of Shurmur’s statement — Manning having a great year and Jones playing — cannot, of course, coexist in the end. If Manning has a great season in 2019, Jones will not play. If Jones plays, Manning cannot have a great season.
“Then we’ll figure that out as we go along,” Shurmur said.
The one out in the scenario is that Jones is “ready to play,” but does not. In that wiggle room may be the ideal for the Giants’ entire 2019 campaign.
Shurmur said he and the coaching staff and front office are “constantly” weighing Manning vs. Jones to see who gives them the best chance to win, and that evaluation will continue moving forward. Jones, though, does not seem interested in such comparisons. His competition on Tuesday was with his performance on Monday.
“I don’t think that’s my focus right now,” Jones said of fighting to be the starter and leapfrogging Manning. “I think in this offseason all of us are focusing on just improving, being better than you were the day before. That’s certainly mine. We’re all trying to put ourselves in a position to play. I think every man on the team has that mindset. Whatever the plan is, I think my focus, certainly right now, is just to be better than I was the day before.
“I certainly trust the plan,” Jones added. “I want to be ready when I’m asked to be and that’s my goal.”
As impressive as Jones has been in the several weeks since the Giants drafted him, it seems unlikely he will dethrone Manning as the starter over the course of the six-week preseason that begins on July 24. Jones has yet to even take a first-team rep during the OTAs or minicamp. They’ve all gone to Manning. And when Jones was drafted with the sixth overall pick, Shurmur made it clear that Manning’s job was to win and keep Jones off the field. Manning almost certainly will be given every opportunity to win games — regular-season games — before the organization makes a huge change at the most important position on the field.
“We feel good where Eli is, he's our starting quarterback, and we've got a young player that we think is going to be an outstanding player getting himself ready to play,” Shurmur said. “He's on track with the goal to be ready to play on Day 1.”
Whether he actually will play or not, it seems, will be the question that looms over the next three months.
“The quarterback stuff will be on the front burner for everybody,” Shurmur said. “I get that.
“Have at it, I guess.”