EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Even though their season will likely end with the calendar year, the next few weeks are going to be crucial for the future of the New York Giants. One way or another, it will go a long way in determining how their quarterback situation pans out moving forward.
No matter where you stand on Eli Manning, he’s going to turn 38 in January. He’s nearing the end of a legendary career, and the Giants are going to spend a large portion of this upcoming offseason deliberating options for their quarterback of the future. Heck, they spent a large part of last offseason deliberating options and are right back in the same place (likely on the outside looking in at the playoffs) one year later.
General manager Dave Gettleman already has spent time on the road to scout some of the top college quarterback prospects. He was spotted at an Oregon game last month, when he watched Justin Herbert throw three touchdown passes in a loss to Utah. He saw West Virginia’s Will Grier shred Oklahoma’s defense with more than 500 yards passing and four touchdowns.
It’s not an accident that Gettleman attended those games featuring top quarterbacks. The Giants understand their current delicate predicament and the difficulty of avoiding what Gettleman himself has called “quarterback hell.” They have acknowledged this much behind closed doors.
Gettleman and the Giants front office have already begun doing their homework on the draft’s top quarterbacks, beginning with Herbert, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Grier. Director of college scouting Chris Pettit took in at least one of Haskins’ games earlier this season, when Ohio State played against TCU in Texas the day before the Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys.
Grier has already stated his intention to enter the draft; the decisions of Haskins and Herbert await. It's big. They could determine if 2019 is the year the Giants find their successor to Manning, if they don’t believe he’s already on the roster. Fourth-round rookie Kyle Lauletta struggled Sunday in his NFL debut, and coach Pat Shurmur has made it painfully obvious he believes the Richmond product is a long way away from being an NFL starter.
“We felt like, ‘Let’s take a look at him and see,’” Shurmur said after Lauletta played the fourth quarter in a 40-16 rout of the Washington Redskins. “I fielded enough questions regarding Kyle that those of you that were interested in seeing him, hopefully you got a chance to see what you were looking for.”
This all leaves next year’s draft as a potential key juncture pertaining to the next decade or so of Giants football. If there's no franchise quarterback, there's little chance of adding to those Lombardis in their trophy case.
Herbert might return to Oregon for another season, and Haskins is expected to declare for the draft. That would limit the Giants’ options, considering Herbert and Haskins were the only two quarterbacks in the first round of Todd McShay’s 2019 NFL Mock Draft 1.0. So without Herbert there would be only one, making it difficult or particularly costly to land that prized prospect.
McShay had Herbert going to the Jaguars at No. 7 and Haskins going to the Giants at No. 10. But he did the exercise without any trades. There would seem to be a strong chance a quarterback goes in the top five. Would the Giants be able to get there?
These next three weeks are going to be telling for a number of reasons that extend beyond Herbert and Haskins. They will provide a more accurate depiction of where Manning and the Giants’ offense stand. They struggled early in the season but have enjoyed much more success in recent weeks. Now they face three teams vying for playoff spots and with top-half-of-the-league defenses, beginning Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. This will be a true test to see if they have the breathing room to hold off on finding their next franchise quarterback for at least one more season.
The Giants (5-8) at least come into this stretch with confidence. They have won four out of five following their bye week. But much of that has come against low-end competition. Of those five opponents, only the Chicago Bears have a winning record ... and they played the Giants without their starting quarterback.
This final stretch will determine just how seriously this recent Big Blue surge should be taken. As things currently stand, the Giants would have the eighth pick in next year’s draft, putting them in a decent position to land the quarterback of their choice with most of the teams ahead of them already having a young quarterback in place. At worst, they could trade up a few spots without having to mortgage too much of their future.
But the Giants could end with anywhere from a top-five pick to the middle of the first round, depending on how they close out the current campaign. The latter could make it difficult to land a franchise QB in the 2019 draft, especially if Herbert remains in school.
Duke’s Daniel Jones, Missouri’s Drew Lock and Grier are expected to be the next tier of quarterbacks. Scouts at this point don’t seem to think any of them will be selected in the top half of the first round. They might not be the franchise quarterback the Giants desire.
It’s why when we look back at these final three weeks of the Giants' season -- however they go -- we’ll likely realize just how much impact they had on their long-term future.