Losing over and over again puts everyone in a bad mood, so fans want to know who's getting fired and when. Players gripe anonymously behind the coach's back. And yes, sometimes talk starts swirling about possible changes at quarterback.
But there are a ton of reasons why the last one doesn't make sense when we're talking about Manning and the Giants, and they wouldn't all pertain to every other team or every other quarterback. Manning's situation as a mega-reliable franchise quarterback who never misses a game and has won two Super Bowl MVP awards is unique in the current NFL. So while the frustrations the Giants and their fans are feeling aren't unique to losing teams, it's important to step outside of the moment and look at the Manning situation with some additional perspective.
With that in mind, here are some perspective-laced answers to some of the questions people are asking about Manning and the Giants:
Wouldn't Eli be happier if the Giants had traded him to a contender?
I don't think that's a safe assumption. Manning isn't eyeing the end of his career and doesn't need a championship to cap it off. He has won the Super Bowl twice. And that's not to say he doesn't want to win it again, but people who know Manning have told me they think finishing his career with one team is among his highest priorities at this point. Manning's contract, which runs through 2019, includes a no-trade clause, so even if the Giants had found a deal to send him to Jacksonville or Denver, he could have nixed it. And it's not crazy to think he would have.
So, does that mean the Giants are stuck with Manning for two more years whether they like it or not?
Not necessarily. There's no more guaranteed money on Manning's contract after this season, and the Giants could cut him outright and save $9.8 million against next year's cap (though they'd also have to eat a $12.4 million dead-money charge). If they keep him for 2018, they could cut him after that season and save $17 million against their 2019 cap (with a dead-money charge of $6.2 million). If they decided the right answer was to blow up everything and start over, they could thank Manning for his service and send him on his way. Theoretically.
Why shouldn't they do that?
He's not that old. Manning turns 37 in January. His brother broke a million NFL passing records in his age-37 season. Drew Brees threw for 5,208 yards in his. Tom Brady is still as good as ever at 40. Quarterbacks can still perform at Manning's age and for several years beyond.
There's a decent chance Manning at 37 and 38 is the Giants' best option at quarterback in 2018 and 2019. And given the fact that all those in-their-prime defensive stars they signed last year are still in their primes, it's not crazy for the Giants to think they could turn things around and contend again. They were 11-5 just one year ago.
So does that mean they shouldn't look for a quarterback in this year's draft?
No, they absolutely should. If the season ended right now, the Giants would pick third in the draft. And if the 2018 draft is as rich in high-end quarterback talent as some have claimed it will be, they'd be doing themselves a disservice not to find out what guys such as Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen have to offer as potential franchise quarterbacks.
It's possible (ideal, even) that they won't get a chance to pick that high again for some time, so it's important to take advantage of the opportunity when they have it. There's no rule that says a quarterback they draft in 2018 has to start in 2018, and there's a lot a young quarterback could learn sitting behind Manning for a year or two. Again, due diligence is the key concept here. They're going to need a new franchise quarterback at some point -- even if it's not for two or three or four more years. The chance to draft a player they believe can be a franchise quarterback is not one to pass up.
Where does Davis Webb figure into all of this?
There's a popular theory that Davis Webb, the Giants' third-round pick in this year's draft, is someone at whom the team needs to take a look before this season is over, so they can "find out what they have in him." To that I say, "Meh." I think this is an overrated concept, personally. Coaches can make quality judgments on players based on practice and preseason game performance.
Webb isn't such an important prospect to the Giants that they need to bench one of the greatest and most successful players in their history just to see what he can do. If he's good enough to be Manning's successor, he'll get his chance to show that sooner or later. To hint in a news conference that there might come a time when a healthy Manning might have to take a seat in favor of an unproven third-round rookie was a mistake by coach Ben McAdoo. There would have been nothing wrong with him saying, "Eli Manning is our quarterback and I don't foresee that changing anytime soon." But he didn't, and so here we are.
The comparison between this situation and the one from 2004, in which veteran Kurt Warner stepped aside when the team decided it was time to turn the thing over to rookie top pick Manning, doesn't hold water. Yes, Warner was a Super Bowl champion, but he was at that time trying to rebuild his career. And his Super Bowl title had come with another team. What Manning means now to the Giants is far beyond anything Kurt Warner ever meant to the Giants. He will surely be in their Ring of Honor and quite possibly the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Whatever Giants fans may think about the way he's playing right now, those opinions will ultimately pale in comparison to the positive memories he has given them.
There aren't many players in the league who've earned the right to go out on their own terms with their teams, but Manning is one. Whether he'll get to do that remains to be seen. In the meantime, the Giants should be careful not to let a messy season prod them into a rash judgment on a player who has been as valuable to them as any they've ever had.