One of the stranger sagas of the 2017 NFL season involved the turbulent year the New York Giants had.
The Giants limped to a putrid 3-13 record, lost superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to injury and saw an expensive defense take some massive steps backward from a solid 2016 campaign.
But perhaps most peculiar and deflating of all, Eli Manning saw his record streak of starting games come to an unceremonious end after coach Ben McAdoo benched him in favor of Geno Smith.
The move was instantly controversial, with McAdoo coming under fire for his handling of the situation.
The coach reportedly offered Manning the chance to start just to keep his streak alive, after which he would be benched to let Smith and rookie Davis Webb play. Manning understandably declined that option.
Reports immediately started circulating that a miffed Manning was all but finished playing for the team, and that the feeling might have been mutual from the Giants. Presumably, New York was ready to move on from the 37-year-old Eli Manning for a younger quarterback of the future.
The dissension between quarterback and franchise also expedited the end of McAdoo, as the second-year coach was let go at the end of the 2017 season along with general manager Jerry Reese.
The Giants swiftly replaced Reese with former Carolina Panthers GM David Gettleman, and eventually replaced McAdoo with Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
Naturally, questions remained over the future of Manning.
After all, thanks to the team’s terrible year, the Giants are in prime position to draft a top-tier quarterback prospect.
And as much good will and loyalty Manning engendered after bringing a pair of Super Bowl trophies to the Giants, twice beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, he is still a 37-year-old quarterback who has never won a playoff game outside of his two championship runs.
Any questions about Manning’s future with the Giants were effectively answered by Gettleman.
Addressing reporters while he was attending a scouting visit to the Senior Bowl, Gettleman made it perfectly clear that Manning would be returning as the starting quarterback of the Giants.
“I had an opportunity to watch [all of Manning’s 2017 game footage],” Gettleman said Wednesday. “Obviously quarterback is the most important position on the team, and at the end of the day, [Manning’s excellent Week 15 performance] wasn’t a mirage.”
In Week 15, Manning lit up the vaunted Philadelphia Eagles defense in a 34-29 loss. Manning threw for 434 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception, while completing 64 percent of his passes.
Since Gettleman pegged Manning as still being an effective quarterback, reporters pressed him on why the Giants had been so inept in 2017.
“I’m not going there,’’ he responded. Presumably, reporters were probably fishing for a quote about McAdoo, who had been touted as an offensive mastermind.
Gettleman also addressed what the Giants would do with the No. 2 overall pick if they weren’t planning on taking a quarterback.
“With the second pick we’re gonna take the best player,” Gettleman said.
“They screamed at me [during my time] in Carolina, ‘You got to draft a tackle, you got to draft a tackle,'” he said. “If the value’s not there when you pick, you’re gonna make a mistake. We’re gonna set ourselves up so we can take the best player available and if the best player available is a quarterback, that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Gettleman also stressed the importance of nailing that draft pick.
“If you take a guy just to take a guy, especially at the quarterback position, and he fails, you set yourself back five years,” he said. “There are teams that are in what I call quarterback hell. They got a quality defense, they’ve got a good special teams and they’re going 9-7 and 8-8, 9-7, and now if there is a legitimate guy, they got to trade up and give away the farm to get the guy.’’
If the Giants pass on a quarterback, there will undoubtedly be a ton of talent waiting at the second spot. Saquon Barkley could give Manning the franchise running back he’s never truly had, while Bradley Chubb or Minkah Fitzpatrick could give a much-needed jolt to an underperforming defense.
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