IRVING, Texas — Eli Manning a Giant in 2018? Team president and co-owner John Mara is all for it . . . at this point, anyway.
When asked at Wednesday’s December meetings if he wants Manning to return next year, Mara said, “Yes. But that’s a discussion that we’ll have.”
Mara acknowledged that uncertainty about the pursuit of a general manager and coach could impact Manning’s future. If the GM told Mara it might be better to move on from Manning, who turns 37 next month, the owner said, “We’ll have that discussion.”
Manning’s streak of 210 starts ended Dec. 3 against the Raiders. Coach Ben McAdoo had proposed a plan to Manning in which he would play the first half and be replaced. Manning balked at the idea and asked that Geno Smith start because it wasn’t fair to either quarterback to have Manning start and come out. The Giants came under intense criticism for their handling of Manning’s situation, and McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were fired Dec. 4.
Mara said he has “had some discussions with (Manning), but I’d rather keep that between him and me.” He expects the two will talk after the season to begin figuring out whether there is a place for Manning on the team in 2018.
Asked if he had concerns about Manning’s play, Mara said he is more “concerned about our team. We still think he can play, but we obviously have to get better around him.”
But Manning’s future in New York is far from certain and could hinge on the Giants’ draft plans. Mara said he would absolutely consider taking a quarterback with next year’s first-round pick, which could be as high as second overall.
Mara said he has seen most of the top quarterback prospects, including USC’s Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen of UCLA and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.
“We’re in a unique position to take a quarterback if we want, but I’m not certain at this point they will be the highest- graded players on the board,” Mara said. “That will be a discussion with the new general manager and new head coach. I’ve watched all of them (on television) except for that Wyoming kid (Josh Allen). They’re all impressive.”
For now, Mara is comfortable with interim coach Steve Spagnuolo going with Manning as his starter.
“The first question I asked him after he said yes to being the interim coach, I said, ‘Who do you want to play at quarterback?’ ” Mara said. “He said, ‘I’d like to play Eli because I think he’d give the team a lift.’ I said fine. I have not gone back to him and told him to do anything else. I don’t like to get involved with that, but whether that changes for the last two games, I don’t know. I guess that’s a discussion we’ll have at some point.”
The Giants will begin to interview general manager prospects next week. Mara said it’s safe to assume that internal candidates — likely including interim general manager Kevin Abrams and college scouting director Marc Ross — will be interviewed. It’s also expected the team will speak to former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman, who worked in the Giants’ front office. “We have interviews scheduled next week, and we’ll probably be announcing who we’re bringing in,” Mara said.
Mara is also interested in interviewing GM candidates from other teams, but league rules prohibit that until after the regular season. Among the most frequently mentioned are Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio, Packers personnel director Eliot Wolf, Seahawks co-directors of player personnel Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer and Falcons assistant GM Scott Pioli.
Gettleman is considered the front-runner because he has long-standing ties with the organization and was recommended for the Panthers’ job by former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, a consultant on the Giants’ search.
Asked about potential criticism if he hired Gettleman and thus didn’t get an outside voice to steer the team in a new direction, Mara said, “We’re going to get criticized no matter what we do.”
He did not want to get into a specific evaluation of Gettleman. “I’d rather not get into all that,” he said. “Listen, I don’t want to comment on any specific candidate, because I don’t want to make that the story.”
The Giants’ coaching search isn’t expected to begin until after the regular season, when coaches still under contract with other teams can be interviewed.