MOBILE, Ala. — Of all the items Giants general manager Dave Gettleman discussed with reporters during Senior Bowl practices Wednesday, saying quarterback Eli Manning will return in 2018 was the one that resonated.
And it’s a decision newly hired coach Pat Shurmur is on board with.
Since returning to the team as GM last month, Gettleman has had conversations with the Giants’ two biggest stars, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Manning. Gettleman was a Giants personnel executive from 1999-2012 and the Panthers’ general manager from 2013-16.
“It was just fun to catch up with him,” Gettleman said of his chat with Manning. “Eli came into the league when I was there and I hadn’t seen him in five years except for that one game in 2013 when we played them. It was just fun to catch up on a personal level.”
Manning had one of his worst seasons in 2017. He threw for 3,468 yards, the first time since 2013 he didn’t reach 4,000. He completed only 61.6 percent of his passes, his lowest output since 2013. But by throwing for 434 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-29 loss to the Eagles on Dec. 17, Manning proved to Gettleman that he still had it.
“I had an opportunity to watch (that game),” Gettleman said. “Quarterback is the most important position on the team. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a mirage. It was not a mirage.”
With the No. 2 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, it’s been assumed that the Giants will take a quarterback to eventually replace the 37-year-old Manning. This draft is rich with quarterbacks, including two high-quality ones expected to participate in Saturday’s Senior Bowl — Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. Gettleman and his staff are getting a close-up look at all the quarterbacks here. But Gettleman cautions about taking one at No. 2, saying you select the best player available instead of trying to force the issue.
“If you take a guy just to take a guy, especially at the quarterback position, and he fails, you set yourself back five years,” Gettleman said. “There are teams in what I call quarterback hell. They’ve got quality defense, they’ve got good special teams and they’re going 7-9, 8-8, 9-7. And now if there’s a legitimate guy, they’ve got to trade up and give away the farm to get the guy.”
As for Beckham, he lasted only four games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Gettleman said Beckham continues to rehab and isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for OTAs this spring.
“I had a chat with Odell. Had a great chat with him,” Gettleman said. “In that (2014) draft — people are going to call me crazy — in that draft, the only guy who I would have took over Kelvin Benjamin was Odell. That’s it. The other guys, nothing wrong with the other guys. For us in Carolina, Kelvin was the guy.”
Beckham was the 12th overall pick, with Benjamin selected 28th.
“The bottom line is he’s a wondrously talented player, and I’m looking forward to working with him,” Gettleman said.
Even though the Giants went 3-13, Gettleman said he doesn’t expect 2018 to be a rebuilding year.
“There’s talent here now, there’s talent on this team,” he said. “When I went to Carolina, they were coming off four consecutive losing seasons, and then we went 12-4. I’m not saying we’re going to replicate that. You’ve seen quick turnarounds in this league, it happens all the time. We’re going to build it one brick at a time.”