The New York Giants possess the second overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft and almost every pundit to man/woman has them selecting a quarterback with the pick. The reasoning is that Eli Manning is in decline and the incoming quarterback class is being deemed as ‘generational’.
As one who has covered this team for two decades and followed it for over a half-a-century, I disagree with both of those assessments. Manning may be 37 years of age but he’s a healthy 37. He’s never been hurt and would still be riding his consecutive starting streak had former head coach Ben McAdoo not made the ill-fated decision to bench him last season in favor of Geno Smith.
Manning has played fourteen seasons without incurring any major injuries and has led the club to two Super Bowl championships. There’s something to be said about that. Former GM Ernie Accorsi worked out a deal during the 2004 NFL Draft to bring Manning in and surrounded him with the talent needed to succeed. Since Accorsi left in 2006, the Giants have had to deal with the miscalculations of Accorsi’s successor, Jerry Reese, who held ‘upside’ in higher regard than actual production and drafted poorly.
As a result, the team has basically fallen off the NFL landscape in this decade. They won another Super Bowl in 2011 but the roster was still peppered with Accorsi’s guys. Reese swung and missed repeatedly in the draft, causing the team to go into a tailspin. Head coach Tom Coughlin was forced to fall on his sword after 12 seasons and the team made the fatal mistake of elevating his offensive coordinator, McAdoo, to head coach.
You know the rest. The Giants have effectively fallen apart since then. They are reaping what they have sewn. There attempts to resurrect and supplement their once vaunted offensive line have been a failure. There is talk of five new starters along the front in 2018. Who they will be is anyone’s guess. We know Andrew Norwell will not be one of them as he signed a huge free agent deal with Coughlin in Jacksonville on the first day of free agency.
McAdoo’s offensive scheme, which can be best be described as a bastardization of the West Coast offense, has been nothing short of disastrous and in direct opposition of Manning’s strengths as a quarterback. To his credit, Reese had done a good job in supplying McAdoo with assets such as WRs Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepherd and Brandon Marshall as well as TE Evan Engram yet the offense sputtered.
The scheme did not deploy those assets properly with a truncated route tree and a ‘dink and dunk’ mentality. Defenses jammed the box, and the Giants had few answers. They couldn’t run the ball and Manning, feeling pressure more often than not, gave up on looking for the big play. In fact, he often spiked the ball into the ground because the defense read their plays so well.
So, those who are chiseling Manning’s epitaph, please stop. Incoming GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur are putting their chips on Manning to run the offense for the upcoming season and perhaps beyond. Eli has two years remaining on the four year, $84 million extension he signed in 2015. They plan to utilize him properly in a vertical passing scheme which suits his and the receivers’ talents.
Gettleman, who took over the team late last season, liked what he saw from Manning after a game versus the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in which Eli threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
“Eli has won a lot of games,” said Gettleman. “He’s a great competitor. He’s very intelligent and he and I are going to talk and if what I saw (against) Philadelphia was not a mirage, and I don’t believe it was, then we’ll just keep moving.”
After hiring Shurmur as head coach, it was clear that Manning was going to be their guy for the moment.
“I watched Eli throw a little bit this summer, and I walked away saying he looked really, really good,” Shurmur said. “He looked fit. He was throwing the ball well. The ball had good velocity coming off his hand. I think he’s got years left. How much, I don’t know. But I think he has time left, and I look forward to working with him.”
Shurmur has not been able to talk nuts and bolts with any of his players yet, but he knows Manning and feels strongly he will be able to make a solid connection with him.
“I think the relationship is going to be very strong,” Shurmur said I’ve watched him, competed against him, admired how he’s played over the years. Got to spend some time with him this summer in the Manning Academy setting. I’ve already spoken to him on the phone and he’s an outstanding football player, and I can’t wait to get to work with him. I’ve admired the way he’s handled things. I sort of like a calm approach to the position. Looking forward to getting to work with him.
But that’s only half the equation at quarterback, however. Last season, Reese adroitly drafted Manning’s alleged successor, the 6-foot-5 Davis Webb out of Cal, a highly-productive kid with a lot of that upside that he loves. Unfortunately, Webb never got to play, or even dress, as a rookie so the jury is still very much out on him. McAdoo and his staff did not adequately prepare the kid to play, which led to inserting Smith when it came time to spell Eli.
Shurmur and Gettleman both know they may have something here in Webb. Something that may put the brakes on drafting a future franchise QB at No. 2 overall.
“We liked him down in Carolina in the draft,” general manager Dave Gettleman said at the NFL Combine. “It’s kind of like having a Christmas present or a Hanukkah present and you get to unwrap it eventually.”
“I like what I’ve seen in Davis Webb,” Shurmur also said at the Combine. “I went back and watched his tape again from college, just to get reacquainted with him. I had a chance to watch his practice tape, which has been terrific. We just don’t have a large sample size of Davis Webb playing NFL football.”
Shurmur was most recently the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator and QB guru who was very involved in developing players. He had scouted Webb in college and recalled being intrigued by him during last year’s NFL Draft.
“We liked his size, we liked his arm strength,” Shurmur said of Webb. “We liked his decision-making and that he can move around on the pocket. I can see why the Giants drafted him.”
The Giants took Webb in the third round, and at the time many commented that they got a bit of steal. Then, McAdoo and his staff buried Webb down the depth chart and he has in effect become a bit of a forgotten man. But this new regime may be warming up to Webb. He is a ‘gym rat’ who keeps learning and improving. He just may be their QB of the future. Tony Racioppi, the famous QB whisperer, tweeted this last week:
What’s also getting lost is the fact that Webb just might be a better prospect than the big four (Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen) and the Giants already have him. He has the arm strength (see below) and has the jump when it comes to acclimating to NFL life.
The contention here is that if the Giants choose a QB at No. 2 overall, that player may not be better than Webb and since they will both have to sit behind Eli for at least a year (maybe two), would the Giants be better off going in another direction such as trading back to restock some of the weaknesses on their roster such as offensive line, linebacker and running back?