The New York Giants have already used their off-season impressively—acting quickly to hire and officially announce a very capable roster of coaches last week. Their most interesting hire, offensive coordinator Mike Shula, has already sparked debate amongst the fanbase. New head coach Pat Shurmur has indicated that he anticipates Shula having a chief role in developing their quarterbacks; a role that lacks clarity, as there are still so many questions about what the staff will decide to do with their roster.
After the highly criticized benching of Eli Manning in Week 13 by the ostracized Ben McAdoo, questions began to arise about whether Davis Webb or Geno Smith are capable of carrying Big Blue to victory. Manning, the club’s 13-year veteran, has received support from Shurmur in his interactions with the press thus far. However, with a highly praised upcoming class of quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and interesting recent developments in free agency, the G-men have plenty of quarterback options, outside of those currently on their roster.
Addressing the New York Giants Quarterback Options
Option 1: Drafting Anew
On April 26th, the Giants staff will be put under the annual pressure of selecting players who they hope will make a positive impact on the field. While many were critical of the Manning benching, the fact remains that the franchise will eventually need to find his successor. The Cleveland Browns have the number one pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and a crucial choice to make amongst the quarterback class. The Giants, however, have other needs, and don’t face the same pressure to find a new signal caller as do the Browns.
Murmurs of interest in Penn State running back Saquon Barkley have sparked serious intrigue, as having he could be a great offensive weapon for Manning. But in the first go-round of their mock drafts, ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay projected that the G-men would select Josh Rosen of UCLA, a clean passer with an accurate arm, despite his injury history. Kiper also has Barkley as his number one overall, followed by Bradley Chubb, a noteworthy defensive talent from North Carolina State, who would be a choice asset to the Giants secondary. The team needs to make a quick turnaround, but that means that all roster positions need to be considered, so, while the Giants need to prepare for a future after Eli Manning, selecting a quarterback might not the best use of the coveted second overall pick.
Option 2: Free Agents
With the start of the new league year less than a month away, there have already been a bounty of surprises in free agency. Upon news of the Washington Redskins deal to trade for Alex Smith, they are expected to let go of the twice-franchised playmaker Kirk Cousins, who will hit the market at a price that will likely be too steep for Big Blue. But the Giants will still put some serious thought into the few budget-friendly free agents at the centerpiece position. It is vital to consider Shurmur’s notoriety as a quarterback whisperer, particularly when looking at these options. After leading the Minnesota Vikings offense to the NFC championship this past season, Giants president John Mara and chairman Steve Tisch praised Shurmur’s “outstanding track record in developing young players.” Sam Bradford began his professional career under Shurmur’s tutelage with the vintage St. Louis Rams, before following him to the Philadelphia Eagles, and then ultimately to the Vikings, where he started 15 games in the 2016 season and was named the the starter in 2017 before injuring his knee in the first game.
The Vikings then turned to backup Case Keenum for the majority of the 2017 season, as Teddy Bridgewater was still recovering from injury. All three of those quarterbacks will be free agents this off-season. Two (Bradford and Bridgewater), carry substantial risk due to their injury histories, though they both have quite a bit of time left, provided they are well-protected on the field, considering their ages. Bradford clearly has a strong history with Shurmur, and Keenum was his guy on the fly this past season, performing far better than anticipated. Either are suitable options for the Giants should they take the leap and trade away Eli, and/or release Geno Smith back into free agency. Both Bradford and Bridgewater have the experience and skill to help the Giants immediately while Shurmur and Shula work with Davis Webb to groom him for the future.
Option 3: Stick with the Program
In reality, Eli Manning is still a formidable quarterback. While many feel that he’s nearing the end of his rope, he was certainly betrayed when he was benched last year, interrupting his 210-game streak as a starter. Whether or not he decides to move on to a franchise that he feels might better appreciate him (perhaps the Denver Broncos in exchange for another high draft pick; or the Jacksonville Jaguars, where Tom Coughlin expressed disappointment at Manning’s benching, and support of his former player), or stick with the club that built him, he still has the potential to follow in his brother Peyton Manning’s footsteps and earn himself one more ring.
In his introductory press conference, Shurmur said that he was excited to get to know Davis Webb, citing the lack of tape that exists on the player. While what was seen from Webb in his rookie year was unimpressive in quality and minimal in quantity, there’s no telling what Shurmur could teach the young athlete.
The Giants definitely have questions at quarterback. Depending on what is decided regarding the contracts of Manning and Smith, there will likely be an opening on the roster for a new guy in the draft or free agency. Regardless, however, of the moves that are made at this position, there is a high level of expectation and pressure on the new staff in East Rutherford to make improvements, and fast.