The Eli Manning era in New York may have come to an end in Week 3. The Giants chose to bench Manning in favor of much-maligned sixth overall pick Daniel Jones.
In addition to Manning’s declining play, the Giants have had only one winning season since 2013. In 2019, Manning has a 62.9 percent completion percentage, 556 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. New York is 0-2 in the games he has started.
During Week 3 against the Buccaneers, Daniel Jones turned in a 63.9 percent completion rate, two passing and two rushing touchdowns and no picks. He also led an 18-point comeback to win the game; something Manning has never done. In fact, the Giants are 0-44 under Manning when down 18 points or more.
Manning has usually been enough for the Giants. He has been selected to four Pro Bowls, and he led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins, winning Super Bowl MVP in both. He is eighth all-time in passing touchdowns and a probable Hall-of-Famer.
But at 38 years old, on a team seemingly embracing a rebuild, he is simply not the answer at quarterback. With his contract expiring at the end of the year, it is a possibility the Giants could move him. Whether or not that is more of an insult than declining to sign him as a free agent in 2020 is up for debate. But the fact remains, barring injury to Jones, he will likely be a backup in New York.
So, if the Giants do make the move, where could he end up?
It is currently Minshew Mania in Jacksonville, as Gardner Minshew has captured the attention of the entire league with his personal style and level of play (in that order).
But with expensive free agent Nick Foles out until Week 11 at the soonest with a collarbone injury, who will the Jaguars turn to if Minshew goes down or falls out of favor?
The only other quarterback on the roster is Joshua Dobbs. Traded from Pittsburgh after Foles hit IR, Dobbs only has 12 attempted throws (six completed) in a regular-season NFL game. On those, he has thrown for no touchdowns and one interception.
The Jags’ VP of football operations is Eli Manning’s former coach, Tom Coughlin. He and Manning won those two Super Bowls together, and under Coughlin, Eli racked up an impressive “ironman” like streak of consecutive starts.
Clearly Coughlin has always believed in Manning. Moving him to Jacksonville would be a reunion for the two, and Florida is not a bad place to end a career. It is warm and there is no income tax. He could also be a source of knowledge for Minshew to use to heighten his play.
A sort of player-coach role under the guidance of his Super Bowl-winning mentor could make sense for Manning and the Jaguars.
New York Jets
If the Giants want a return for Manning, and Manning wants to stay in the city in which he is a hero, here is both parties’ golden opportunity.
Not only do the Jets play in the same city as the Giants, they play in the very same stadium. Eli would not have to uproot his life, and it would not feel as “disrespectful” as shipping him across the country. Jets fans would more than likely embrace him, and Giants fans would probably be happy to see him stay in New York City.
Adding on, the Jets are in full-blown crisis mode.
Sam Darnold is currently out with mononucleosis. The Jets have a bye week in Week 4, and more tests will be run the following Monday, with the hopes Darnold can return in Week 5. But illnesses are tricky, and with the enlarged spleen that accompanies mono, he could be out longer.
Backup Trevor Siemian suffered an ankle injury in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns that will sideline him for the rest of the year. Third-stringer Luke Falk is currently the starter, but he has failed to throw for 300 yards in roughly 1.5 games, along with no touchdowns and one pick. Falk is nothing more than a game manager who does not have the arm strength to utilize the entirety of the field.
Eli Manning could easily step in here. The Jets are currently 0-3, with no real hope of improving soon. If Manning wants to play and compete, this could be a relatively seamless transition for him. Coach Adam Gase would likely embrace him in favor of Falk, and if the Jets want to take their time for Darnold to get well, he could be a starter at MetLife Stadium once again.
For a little bit, at least.
Ben Roethlisberger insists his career is not over after suffering a season-ending elbow injury. NFL fans are inclined to believe him, as he has been a relatively durable player in his career.
But the issue of 2019 remains for a team that had, at least, playoff aspirations.
Mason Rudolph has not been terrible in relief of Roethlisberger. But, in his first start, he completed less than 52 percent of his passes, and had two touchdowns to one interception. The Steelers also managed to lose the game after the 49ers turned the ball over five times.
If the Steelers believe Rudolph is their QB of the future, then he needs more time to get acclimated. But if the brass simply believes he is a stop-gap or will only serve as a backup in his time in Pittsburgh, then they need to begin to look elsewhere.
Eli Manning is used to cold-weather games, and has a veteran presence that could rally the Steelers. At 0-3, sharing the last spot in the AFC North with the Bengals, that presence cannot be overstated.
If he were to be traded to Pittsburgh, one has to belief there would be an immediate contest for the starting spot. Eli may be declining, but no one said he does not know how to win a game. The Steelers schedule may be tough, but Manning has beat those kinds of odds before.
The air is thin at Mile High Stadium, so who says you need a strong-arm quarterback?
The Broncos acquired Joe Flacco in the offseason after Lamar Jackson won his job in Baltimore. He has been mediocre at best in his first three games in Denver.
Throwing for 69 percent completion, two touchdowns and two interceptions, the Broncos may have expected more. Especially from a Super Bowl-winning QB who had to go through Denver to earn his ring.
John Elway and company surely do not believe he is the long term answer at the position. So why not bring in another veteran to shore up the offense if Flacco continues to merely tread water?
Yes, Eli is older. But their second round draft pick Drew Lock is on IR, and their current backup is Brandon Allen, who has never thrown an NFL pass. These quarterback questions in Denver are not going to be answered any time soon. Why not bring in another veteran with winning experience? Especially when it would only cost them a fourth or fifth round pick?
This is not the best fit for Manning, but again, if the Giants do not want to lose Eli for nothing, it is a possibility.
New York Giants
Eli staying put is not what this article is about, but it is worth discussing anyway.
Maybe the most likely scenario here is that Manning stays with the Giants. He can be a mentor to Daniel Jones, and can fill the role with which Kurt Warner provided him. Lest we forget, Eli won his starting job over Warner, who handled the change by working with, rather than against it.
The Giants owe a lot to Eli. Not in terms of money, per se, but in terms of respect.
In 2007, Manning won them their first Super Bowl since 1990. Then, he did it again in 2011. He won the Giants the NFC East three times, and took them to the playoffs six times in his 15 year career. It seems as if the least they could do is let him retire a New York Football Giant.
It gets messy in terms of contract, though. As previously stated, Eli’s deal is up after this season. So the Giants brass would have to approach 2020 delicately.
Do they gently suggest he retire if they do not plan on spending any more money on him? Do they pick him up for one year to let him have a farewell tour? Or do they say, “thank you very much,” and let him walk? Which, of course, would get them nothing and force us to watch him fade out of the league in a strange jersey.
Daniel Jones could use Eli’s guidance. The Giants could use him for one last trip around the block if something happens to their new quarterback.
The only thing that is clear is that Eli’s time has come. He has to pass the torch. It is up to the organization to treat him right.
Featured Image courtesy of Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports
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