PHOENIX – Pat Shurmur knows that at some point, and most likely during his tenure as coach, the Giants will replace Eli Manning. The player who will be taking over the reins of the franchise has yet to be determined. But as the team barrels toward the draft in less than a month, Shurmur expressed some urgency in the matter of finding him and adding him to the roster.
“Sooner better than later,” he said Tuesday at the NFL league meetings.
That’s not because he is in a rush to push Manning out the door. On the contrary. It’s so the next guy can experience what Shurmur seems to think is the greatest gift a young player can receive, the benefit from being around Manning,
“I just know this: A guy who has done all the things that Eli has done, if we draft a quarterback and he becomes the future, being around Eli will only help him,” Shurmur said.
Time is running out for that idyllic transition to take place. Not only is Manning 38 years old, but he is entering the final year of his contract. Co-owner John Mara said this week that there are no plans yet to extend Manning beyond this upcoming season.
“We’re going to take it one year at a time,” Mara said. “At this stage of his career you take it one year at a time.”
All of which leads to one conclusion.
If the Giants want some of Manning to rub off on his replacement and have a soft fade rather than a hard cut between quarterback eras, then they pretty much have to add that next player now.
Shurmur said he and the Giants have done “a heck of a lot of work” on all the quarterbacks they could draft with either of their first-round picks or their second-rounder. They’ve been to all the big pro days, and there will be upcoming visits by players to the Giants’ facility.
So what is Shurmur looking for in those meetings?
“First of all, you look for a guy who is genuine,” Shurmur said. “You look for a guy who has that natural charisma. You can’t always quantify it, but when you walk away, you say, ‘That guy is gonna be a really good player.’ ... Eventually it comes back to the coach who will say, ‘OK, do I want to coach this guy?' "
All of this talk about future quarterbacks certainly must play on the mind of the old one, who is still the present one. The Giants talk a lot about how the “Kansas City model” worked for the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, but not a lot of air is spent talking about how that team got rid of Alex Smith when the time came to make the switch. That’s what Manning is looking at here.
Manning has not spoken publicly since the end of the regular season and has not addressed this potential situation, but Shurmur insisted Manning can handle it and won’t be distracted by outside perceptions or contractual realities.
“Eli is all in,” he said. “That’s part of his charm.”
Shurmur also said it won’t be Manning’s job to be a teacher and instructor. At least not officially.
“I think the important thing moving forward is Eli be the best Eli he can be, play outstanding winning football, and not worry about that,” Shurmur said. “Quarterbacks learn from each other, and if we bring in the right guy, he’s gonna study Eli and he’s going to learn a great deal by just being around him ... I’ve been around Eli and I’ve seen the way he works, so if a young player will study him and learn, they’re gonna learn a lot.”
If the Giants want their next quarterback to experience that, though, then they need to find him quickly.