EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning showed, for one day at least, there is still something left in that right arm and soon-to-be 37-year-old body. He might not be done yet.
Manning threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns with one interception on Sunday, by far his best performance of the season. It was wasted in a 34-29 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium.
Interim coach Steve Spagnuolo said afterward it was a pretty good assumption Manning will start next week against the Arizona Cardinals. As long as he's standing, the Giants appear destined to keep him as their starter this season.
It could be for even longer. Manning has two years remaining and a no-trade clause in his contract, and might not be going anywhere. Co-owner John Mara said last week he wants the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback to return next season.
"Yeah, I did see that," Manning said after completing 37 of 57 passes as the Giants scored a season-high 29 points. "I want to be back next year as well. So again, I love playing for the New York Giants. I love this organization. I appreciate everything they've done for me and I try to give back everything that I have to this organization and this team. So I'd like to be back as well."
There is a lot that factors into this complicated equation. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of the Giants keeping Manning:
Veteran mentor: The Giants are going to have, at minimum, one young quarterback on the roster, with Davis Webb and/or a potential top draft pick. Manning has value as a lead-by-example veteran. He has seen every defensive look imaginable and can impart some wisdom on the young quarterbacks. His work ethic could also rub off.
The bridge: Manning makes sense if the Giants aren't ready to turn over the franchise to one of the young quarterbacks. He can serve as the one-year bridge. If he struggles like he has this season, they also have already greased the skids to make the move to bench him. There is no streak to take into account and by now the veteran quarterback has to understand the situation if he returns. If he stays, it’s likely only for the short term.
Financially: The Giants would take a $12.4 million cap hit if Manning were cut or traded. Even though they would save almost $10 million against the cap if they moved on, they would then need to sign a veteran. The cap savings wouldn’t be overwhelming. The way the contract was designed the Giants would ideally have liked to keep Manning through the 2018 season, then move on if necessary. Anything after that could be strictly a personnel -- not financial -- decision.
One last run: Maybe Manning's performance Sunday against the Eagles was a sign of things to come. Maybe he has enough left that the Giants can reshape their roster in the offseason and turn it around with an experienced quarterback. Manning's arm doesn't appear to be the problem. If anything, it's his lack of mobility and the ability to thrive under pressure. With the right moves by the new general manager and Odell Beckham Jr. back as his safety blanket and top playmaker, maybe it's possible for the Giants to put together a run with Manning in 2018.
Slim chance of success: Let's be honest. The Giants haven't been able to put it together for most of the past six years. What indicates they can do it in the next year or so while Manning has to learn another new system? It seems unlikely, given the roster and state of the locker room, that the Giants are close to making a real run. There is also a chance that Sunday against the Eagles was a mirage. Manning's track record over the past two seasons isn't particularly good. There have been significantly more duds than impressive performances.
Delaying the inevitable: The Giants are going to turn the team over to a young quarterback in the near future. Why wait? If they draft a quarterback with a top-three pick, it's a matter of time before he gets into a game. The only way for him to learn is by playing and having Manning around might delay the inevitable. It already has pinned Webb to the bench this season. And will Manning be OK with playing the role of Kurt Warner with the Giants in 2004 if need be? He still thinks he can play at a high level.
Financial hit: Manning will cost $22.2 million against the salary cap next season. He's not a $22 million player anymore. That isn't even debatable. Cutting or trading him will result in some dead money, but even if it gives the Giants an extra $4 million or so to work with it could help in adding depth to a roster that is in desperate need of reinforcements -- or help in re-signing Beckham. Every dollar could matter to the new general manager as he tries to rebuild this team.
Turning the page: There will be a new general manager and coach sometime early next year. It might benefit everyone involved for the new regime to start fresh with its own quarterback (preferably with the No. 2 overall pick). Why waste time investing in an aging quarterback learning a new system and being the leader of the team when the new GM and coach can make the change at the start, rather than sometime during the season or in the next few years?