The theme of the day was spelled out on the signs and video screens that dot the landscape in and around the Giants’ headquarters. “Welcome Coach Shurmur!” they declared, rolling out the blue carpet for the 18th head coach in franchise history.
In a way, though, there was another warm reception taking place Friday. No signs, no staged photos, no introductory news conferences. But a very clear message: Welcome back, Eli Manning!
The quarterback never actually left, but his place on the Giants seemed tenuous when he last stepped off the field less than a month ago. On Friday, however, the Giants made it clear that Manning is as much a part of their immediate future as Shurmur is.
All the principals who participated in Shurmur’s formal introduction — the coach included — expect Manning to be the starting quarterback when the season begins in September.
“Obviously, it’s something that we wanted,” co-owner John Mara said. “One thing about Pat was that he was very positive about Eli in the interview. Certainly that was a positive [for us].”
That didn’t always seem to be the case, certainly not when Manning’s streak of consecutive starts ended at 210 in early December and Geno Smith started in his place against the Raiders. The next day, head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were fired.
It is an episode the Giants clearly wish to sweep away.
“I want to forget about that, so stop bringing it up,” Mara said. “It was something that was mishandled and I’ve taken responsibility for that. It falls on my shoulders.”
General manager Dave Gettleman said earlier this week while scouting at the Senior Bowl that Manning will be back in 2018, so Friday’s comments were no real revelations. They were, however, an indication of the team’s commitment to Manning — and his to the Giants.
With the second overall pick in this year’s draft, the Giants have an opportunity to select their next franchise quarterback. It would seem a prudent decision, given that Manning is 37 years old. When asked during the 2017 season about being a “mentor’’ to a young player, he had balked at the idea, but he apparently has come to terms with the possibility of grooming his replacement.
“He said that to Dave,” Mara said. “I didn’t have that discussion. That was part of the discussion that Dave had with him. Yes, he’d be OK with that. He’s a competitor and a professional. I don’t think that’s going to faze him in the least.”
Shurmur said he is on board with starting his Giants tenure with Manning at quarterback. As of Friday afternoon, Manning was the only player on the Giants’ roster whom he had called.
“I think he’s got years left,” Shurmur said. “How much? I don’t know. But I think he has time left, and I look forward to working with him.”
There still are a lot of caveats when Giants brass talks about Manning. “I believe today, standing here this morning, that Eli is going to start the 2018 season as the Giants’ quarterback,” co-owner Steve Tisch said.
There is a lot of uncertainty about how much longer he’ll be the face of the franchise. For now, though, Manning seems assured of at least one more start for the Giants. And that’s one more than he was guaranteed just a few weeks ago.