ORLANDO, Fla. -- Last year’s battle for backup quarterback ended in a draw as both Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib made the roster. That left the Giants with three quarterbacks on the roster for the first time since 2007. This year, Tom Coughlin would like to have a winner in that competition.
And even though the Giants re-signed Painter, it’s clear that Nassib has the edge.
"I think he’s going to be a real good player,” Coughlin said Wednesday during the NFC coaches' breakfast at the NFL owners' meetings. “I think he’s going to develop and I think this will be a real important year for him and for the Giants.”
Carrying three quarterbacks handcuffed the Giants when it came to some roster flexibility at other positions in 2013.
“But you also realize that that was a particular, specific situation, a rookie quarterback,” Coughlin said of Nassib not being ready to play if Eli Manning needed to come out of the game. “He shouldn’t be a rookie quarterback now.”
Coughlin did not commit to a return to the two-quarterback roster.
“There could be other considerations that I haven’t thought about yet until I see the body of work,” he said.
But his preference is to have just one backup.
Coughlin said he isn’t thinking about retirement, but other members of his family are. Guard Chris Snee, Coughlin’s son-in-law, had mulled an end to his career before deciding to return for one final season with the Giants (after practically volunteering to take a substantial paycut to help the team with its salary cap).
Coughlin said Snee, 32 and coming off a second hip surgery as well as a procedure on his arm, has gotten his speed back and is starting to regain the weight he lost while recovering from the operations. Most importantly, he has a desire to return not only to the field, but to his All-Pro form.
“He’s got the fire, he’s excited, he wants to play, he feels good, he’s worked hard,” Coughlin said. “He is an incredible competitor. He’s a tough, hard-nosed football player who brings a great ingredient to your team and quite frankly we need that.”
Intangibles are great, but what can a banged-up Snee do on the field?
"He probably says it best,” Coughlin said, paraphrasing Snee. “‘Am I the same player I was four or five years ago? Maybe not. But am I good enough to be included in the top guards in the game? Yes.’ I think that’s pretty well-said.”
The Giants haven’t been to the playoffs since Mario Manningham left after Super Bowl XLVI. Coughlin made it clear to the wide receiver that he’ll be counted on to help bring them back to that level.
“As I told him when he was here, if we’re going to be the team that we want to be, he’s got to come back and make a very strong contribution,” Coughlin said. “He’s excited about that chance, that opportunity.”
Manningham is one of several former Giants who, in recent years, have returned and expressed the kind of euphoria that only comes from going home again. He follows Aaron Ross and Brandon Jacobs and seems to share in their delight over the homecoming.
“Mario is really excited to be a Giant once again and can hardly contain himself with his desire to get going and get started and return to being a Giant,” Coughlin said. “You can see in his eyes that he’s matured. He’s physically matured, he’s mentally matured. He has a great attitude.”
He’s also coming off two seasons in San Francisco that were cut short due to knee a knee injury, so he’s no sure thing to be the Mario of old. In fact, neither Ross nor Jacobs completed their return to the Giants healthy. Both finished last season on injured reserve. So the Giants aren’t banking on Manningham to replace Hakeem Nicks.
They do hope that Rueben Randle can, though. The third-year receiver has shown flashes of star-quality play in his first two seasons, but at last month’s Combine general manager Jerry Reese said that the “jury is still out” on whether Randle can be a number one receiver. Coughlin concurred, but thinks the ability is there.
“We have high expectations for Rueben,” he said. “Rueben has got to continue to develop, continue to become a better pro. Focus, concentration, production on the field, consistency day in and day out, practice in and practice out. You’ve seen the plays that the guy can make. He’s made great plays … We have a lot of belief and stock in the fact that his development will continue.”