Eli Manning

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Keidel: Expect Another Year Of Manning Under Center

Jason Keidel
November 30, 2018 - 1:46 pm
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As football fans we're wholly neurotic, childish and churlish, our blood boiling so hot that we are ready to boot our entire team when it loses. We want to play whack a mole with the entire roster, from the kicker to the coach. But unlike other sports, the big NFL needle nudges toward the man under center. 

In the case of the Giants, Eli Manning is the magnet for all emotions. He's the good and bad Eli, the reason Big Blue won two Super Bowls, and also the reason they have been so rancid the last two years. It's the nature of a QB's personality and position. 

While Eli will likely end his football career in Canton, his name archived into pro football immortality, he's always been the third best quarterback from that holy trinity drafted in 2004. All three are Hall of Famers, but Big Ben has always been a better player than Eli Manning, and, at 37, you could argue that Philip Rivers - who just completed 28 of 29 passes in one game - is having his best season as a pro quarterback and is a serious MVP candidate this season for the 8-3 Chargers. 

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Here's Eli's vocational synopsis - tall, tough, with the Manning family's bionic DNA and, unlike big bro Peyton, Eli was born with the super clutch gene. While Peyton could carry a mediocre club through 16 games, Eli needed an ornery defense and robust running game to muscle his way into January. But still, Eli was given two chances to win the Super Bowl, and was the MVP of both of them. For that, he should live in Big Apple grace until he expires. 

Now that Eli is more mediocre than ever, our impulse is to make him the punching bag for the 3-8 Giants, and demand the team chop off his professional head. Sounds simple enough. But the folks who have been pining for Eli's job all year have yet to answer the other, equally important question. Who plays in his place?

If anyone in management thought Kyle Lauletta was a possible replacement, he would have played already. Davis Webb is no longer an option since he now plays down the hall for the Jets. So as Giants fans wince at the notion of Eli playing in 2018, he may actually be Big Blue's QB in 2019. It may not be dreamy, but it may make sense.

A mock draft from CBSSports.com this week predicts that three college quarterbacks will drop off the board in the first six picks. The Oakland Raiders are projected to bag Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins with the third pick.  And then the G-Men pluck Missouri quarterback Drew Lock with the fifth pick. (The Jacksonville Jaguars would select Oregon QB Justin Herbert with the sixth pick.) Giants GM Dave Gettlemen, who scouted Herbert during a game against Utah, could take Herbert instead. But since no mock draft truly knows which team will end in which draft spot, all of this is speculation. 

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No matter whom the Giants grab with their high draft pick, he will need grooming, seasoning and nurturing. Unless their rookie QB comes out firing like Baker Mayfield, it would be prudent to have a college kid study under Big Blue's QB emeritus (Manning).  This is especially true if the G-Men take Lock and the scouting reports are accurate. 

CBS Sports brands Lock a "strong-armed quarterback whose game occasionally reminds us of Jay Cutler - both the good and bad. He can make every throw (and make every throw look easy), but sometimes struggles with decision making, just like every other young passer." Any mention of Jay Cutler justifiably makes football fans cringe, unless you focus entirely on his talent, which Cutler always had in abundance. 

Considering the Giants rank 29th in rushing (91.7 yards per game), have a gruesome offensive line that endangers an already immobile quarterback and have a wildly talented tight end, Evan Engram, who can't stay healthy, Manning hasn't been so terrible, especially of late. Through 11 games, he has thrown for 3,093 yards, 14 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, for a 96.2 passer rating - which, shockingly, would be the highest of his career. 

No one is pretending that Eli Manning is the future, but he's all the Giants have now. This is the risk the team took when they drafted Saquon Barkley rather than reach into the cornucopia of gifted college QBs in last year's draft. As Bill Parcells famously said, you can only take what the schools offer. And if Big Blue finally bags a QB in 2019, he likely won't be ready to play right away, which means one more year of Eli Manning - the good and the bad. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel