Eli Manning has been paying attention.
While he hadn’t spoken publicly since the end of the regular season before Monday, when the Giants returned for the start of their offseason workout program, he certainly heard a lot of what the organization said in the past few months. Phrases such as “the Kansas City model” and “sooner better than later” have been used by the general manager and head coach in association with the quarterbacks available in the draft, and a co-owner said he would “love” for the team to have Manning’s heir in place heading into this season.
So yeah, when Manning fills out his mock draft before next week’s real first round, in which the Giants have two selections, he’ll have his team picking a player at his own position.
“I figure the Giants will get a young quarterback,” Manning said on Monday. “I understand that. Hey, I still have to do my job and I’ll do my part, and my job as I see it is to go out there and play quarterback and win football games. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
It wasn’t until “the last month or so” that Manning said he even had conversations with Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur in which he was told he’d be back for the upcoming season. That probably was right around the time when he received a $5 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year.
He told the Giants he wanted to be back and play in 2019 right after the regular season ended. From there, it was up to the Giants to decide if they wanted the same thing. They did, but with no guarantees for the 38-year-old quarterback in the final year of his contract. Manning made it clear that he was told he’d be “on the team” for 2019, not necessarily the starter.
That his comments came on the same day that the Giants hosted Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins for a pre-draft visit — one of the last of this cycle — only added to the drumbeat from within the building that an heir to Manning could arrive soon.
“I’ve always felt that in the quarterback room, I have always had a great relationship with everyone,” he said. “We have drafted quarterbacks and have had young quarterbacks in there. I enjoy talking football and enjoy talking ball. Giving tips on coverages, protections, concepts, everyone is trying to help each other. It is an open conversation for everyone to get ideas and everyone just sticks around after to get on the same page. That is just part of being a quarterback. I have enjoyed putting in the extra effort and the work. Getting everyone comfortable and up to speed. Help young guys trying to learn a new offense.”
He’s dealt with the additions of Ryan Nassib, Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta in past drafts, but they were mid-round players who never threatened to be the Giants’ quarterback of the future. If the team selects one in the first round, it will be a very different dynamic for Manning in what already is shaping up to be a very different season. He’s never played in the final year of his contract, he hasn’t had to compete for his starting job in the preseason in a decade and a half, and he’s never really had the clock start on a transition to the next Giants quarterback. All of that could be happening soon.
Manning is bracing for all of that in a very Eli Manning way.
“I think,” he said, “you treat it the same as any year you come in.”
Even when it is shaping up to be nothing like any of them.