I spoke to John Mara last week for a story about Eli Manning's past. One of the things he said, however, had to do with Eli Manning's future.
The story was about the 10-year anniversary of Manning being named the starting quarterback for the Giants. Mara was talking about how having that kind of continuity is advantageous to a franchise.
"That separates the teams that have success and the teams that don't have success, having a franchise quarterback that plays every week and plays at a high level," he said. "I remember thinking about that before that  draft and discussing that with Ernie [Accorsi]: If you have a franchise quarterback you're always going to be competitive. Even when the rest of your team isn't so good, you always have a chance to win. It is a good feeling, knowing that he's going to be there every week and what he's accomplished in the past."
Here comes the part about the future.
"We still think he's in his prime and still has a lot of good years left," Mara said. "It lifts the whole franchise when you have a quarterback who can play at that level."
He said that before Sunday's 16-10 loss to the 49ers. Obviously no one is thrilled with the performance of any of the Giants in the game, and Manning's five interceptions certainly stand out as the defining statistical reason for the loss. But it has also sparked a bit of a public discussion about the future of the team, from the head coach down to the quarterback.
Manning has one year remaining on his contract (which includes $17 million in base salary for 2015 and a cap cost of $19.5 million for the Giants). As ESPN noted, he accounts for 17 percent of the team's salary cap this season and, if nothing is done to his deal and the cap goes up as anticipated, will account for about 14.5 percent of the space next year.
Mara hinted a few weeks ago that the Giants would address Manning's contractual future after this year is complete. "I wouldn't anticipate even having those discussions until after the season is over," Mara told Newsday in early October. "That's something we haven't even talked about."
When they do, the Giants will have three basic choices. They can let Manning play 2015 and see where things go after that (he'll be days away from turning 35 when the 2015 regular season wraps up). They can negotiate an extension for him that could free up some cap space in 2015 (and allow them to "buy low" with Manning likely missing the playoffs a third straight year). Or they could release him at the end of this season, take the $2.5-million cap hit (his $17-million base salary is not guaranteed) and move on in a completely different direction. The nuclear option.
It's hard to imagine that last one coming to fruition. And judging from Mara's quote last week in which he said Manning is still "in his prime" and has "a lot of good years left," there's a pretty good chance he'll be the Giants' quarterback not only next season but for a number of seasons after that.