Since the Giants traded for Eli Manning on Draft Day in 2004, they had made 90 other picks when they found themselves on the clock for the third round on Friday night. They understood that the 91st pick would be very different.
“It’s more of a lightning rod type of pick as opposed to picking a DT or corner and stuff like that,” Giants vice president of player evaluations Marc Ross said. “A quarterback has all these innuendos and questions about why you’re taking him and what you’re going to do with him. It’s the most important position in sports, so of course it’s going to get the most attention.”
He was right. The selection of Davis Webb, the quarterback out of California by way of Texas Tech, was one of the most seismic picks the Giants have made in more than a decade. It signaled an end — not suddenly, but eventually — to the Eli Manning Era and began the process of preparing for life after their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
That’s the reality, even if the Giants brass — Ross excluded — was unwilling to admit to it.
Ben McAdoo downplayed the significance of the selection when asked if the decision came with “more gravity” than others.
“That’s a dramatic question,” he said. “I’m not sure what you’re asking.”
And general manager Jerry Reese made it clear that there is no quarterback competition for the Giants at this point.
“Let me get this straight, guys. We hope that Eli plays for a long time for us,” Reese said. ”Eli is our quarterback and we still think that he can play at a high level, but we do know that he is not going to play forever, so we are trying to make the best decision as we move forward for the rest of Eli’s career.”
That said, the Giants did undertake some unusual protocols that included reaching out to Manning to alert him to their decision.
“We didn’t have any conversation with Eli before we drafted, but we draft a quarterback and we are going to let our quarterback know that we are drafting a quarterback, of course,” Reese said. “Eli understands the process. Eli is a very smart guy and he understands the process. He knows that he is not going to play forever. He knows that it is our job to prepare for when he has finished his career here, so he understands that. It is nothing that we had to talk to him about.”
And yet they tried to. Maybe to reassure him. Maybe to warn him. Maybe just as a courtesy after 13 seasons and a pair of championships.
“Eli has however much time that he has left, two or three years left in his contract [he has three] or however long he plays,” Reese said. “We think that this guy [Webb] has a high ceiling that can come in here and develop behind him and learn the pro game and challenge and compete and create competition at the quarterback position.”
That’s something the Giants have not had — some would say they have avoided — for nearly a decade and a half.
Now, though, they will have one eye on the future for the rest of Manning’s tenure with the team. And that’s a very different franchise than the Giants have been for the previous 90 draft choices.