Eli Manning's benching this week could very well signal the end for him with the New York Giants following 210 consecutive regular-season starts and two Super Bowl titles. It's unclear whether Manning will opt for retirement -- he turns 37 in January -- but if the Giants release him and he decides to continue, some landing spots make more sense than others.
Whatever course Manning's career takes from here will affect multiple organizations and his own candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Supporters can point to his role in hoisting two Lombardi trophies and in leading 30 fourth-quarter comeback victories, tied with New England's Tom Brady and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger for the NFL lead since Manning entered the league. Detractors can point to all the interceptions and middling seasons, while contending that Manning was never even one of the very best quarterbacks of his era, let alone all time.
If the balance still needs to be tipped, Manning could conceivably do the tipping himself by claiming his third Super Bowl victory with a second franchise. This season has proved that Manning needs more help than the Giants have been able to give him. For that reason, he would fit best with teams that feel as though they're a veteran quarterback away from winning big.
Eight potential landing spots stood out during conversations with coaches and evaluators throughout the league.
The Jaguars have multiple key components the Giants possessed when Manning was winning Super Bowls.
They have a ferocious pass rush to rival the one New York had when Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck were dominant forces up front. They are committed to the ground game and have shown an ability to run the ball well (Jacksonville's line coach, Pat Flaherty, was the Giants' line coach for both Super Bowl victories). The Jaguars also have former Giants coach Tom Coughlin working as their top football executive.
What Jacksonville doesn't have is a good quarterback. Blake Bortles combines the worst of Manning (high interception rate) without any of the upside (Manning's vast playoff experience and the aforementioned fourth-quarter comeback mark). While Manning's performance has declined, he hasn't had the ground game or defense he enjoyed during his better seasons. The Jaguars could provide both, which could help Manning push for a third championship.
"Eli would love it -- he could finally hand the ball off," an insider said. "He hasn't been able to do that in a long, long time. They could go draft a receiver high or another tight end because Marcedes Lewis is nearing the end. Just get whatever is the best value."