SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Giants may have gotten a glimpse of their quarterback future this weekend.
It’s not the 37-year-old who started for them against the 49ers Monday night at Levi’s Stadium. Nor either of his current backups, Alex Tanney or rookie Kyle Lauletta. No, the big decision-makers for the Giants got as much bang for their travel to the West Coast as possible when general manager Dave Gettleman and assistant GM Kevin Abrams spent Saturday night at the Oregon-Utah game in Salt Lake City to get their first in-person look at quarterback prospect Justin Herbert. Giants West Coast scout Jeremy Breit was also there with them.
So what did they see from the quarterback many suspect will be the first player at his position taken in April’s draft, if not the first player taken overall?
The 6-6, 233-pound Herbert completed 20 of 33 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns without an interception for Oregon, which lost, 32-25. Herbert also had 24 yards on 10 carries.
It’s too early to say what impact that performance will have on Gettleman and the Giants in 5 1/2 months. The general manager, getting ready for his second offseason in the franchise’s big chair, is a stickler for process when it comes to breaking down draft prospects. There undoubtedly will be a meeting with Herbert at the Combine, private workouts, and probably even dinners with coaches and management to measure the quarterback before the Giants make their selection. That’s what they did with last year’s crop of quarterbacks that included Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen before they took Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick.
And that’s assuming Herbert even enters the NFL draft. There have been reports that the junior quarterback is leaning toward returning to college for the 2019 season, though it’s hard to imagine a player eschewing a chance at being a top five pick and risking a career-threatening injury during another year of college ball. Herbert has not said publicly what he is thinking in regard to the situation.
Even if Herbert is not the Giants’ quarterback next season, it seems more and more likely that Eli Manning won’t be. Pat Shurmur stuck with Manning as his starter for Monday’s game, but gave no guarantees beyond. Manning is due to earn $23 million next year in the final year of his contract. The Giants can save $17 million against the 2019 salary cap by parting ways with him once this season has come to an end.
The organization is also itching to see what it has in Tanney and Lauletta before it heads into an offseason that is certain to feature several franchise-altering decisions.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Giants will draft a quarterback. They could go a different route and sign a free agent or trade for a player already in the league. That path worked before; Gettleman was with the Giants when they acquired Kerry Collins in 1999 and reached the Super Bowl with him a year later. If he thinks the Giants have the pieces in place with Odell Beckham Jr. and Barkley, that may be the route he takes rather than bringing in a rookie and waiting the requisite few years for him to develop.
The Giants began this season believing that Manning had years – plural – remaining to be effective and help them contend for championships. The season-long referendum on the two-time Super Bowl MVP is more than halfway over, and with a 1-7 record entering Monday’s game and an offense that is among the worst at scoring in the NFL, its results seem fairly conclusive.
Which is why the most important upcoming games for the Giants, the ones the team’s brass may be paying the most attention to for the rest of this year, will likely be played on Saturdays and not Sundays or Mondays.
Notes & quotes: The air quality index in Santa Clara as the game began was 153, which the EPA considers “unhealthy” and recommends that people “reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.” Smoke from the devastating Camp Wildfire in Northern California has blanketed the Bay Area since last week, and there was a thick haze covering Levi’s Stadium … Jamon Brown started at right guard in his first game for the Giants. Brown was claimed off waivers from the Rams last week … DT R.J. McIntosh, the rookie draft pick added to the Giants’ active roster last week after spending the first half of the season on the non-football illness list, was inactive.