Pat Shurmur is not going to publicly announce in Week 6 of his first season as Giants coach that two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning might not be his starter all 16 games and, by association, acknowledge this may be the final season of his Giants career.
At 1-5 coming off an unacceptable effort in Thursday’s 34-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Shurmur’s immediate concern is learning in the two games prior to the Giants’ Week 9 bye which players truly want to be a part of what he’s building and who’s just along for the ride.
So Manning will remain the starter at least for the Giants’ next game on Oct. 22 Monday Night Football in Atlanta. A quarterback change at the moment is not on the table.
“No. We believe in Eli,” Shurmur said Friday in East Rutherford.
There is a bigger reason, though, that it makes sense for Shurmur not to bench Manning just yet. And it’s that the Giants and Manning need to come up with a plan on how to do this right.
They can’t repeat last year’s mistakes. This is a sensitive issue. Go ask Jerry Reese, Ben McAdoo and Geno Smith (or on second thought, no need to ask Smith, who tweeted Thursday, “Ya’ll owe my boy Mac an apology!!).
Remember: the fan base reminded John Mara and the organization last December how much Manning means to them. And Manning made clear he has the power to overrule the franchise if he doesn’t agree with their idea of his future.
So Shurmur needs to make the right decision for the franchise and move on from Manning (and he’ll earn plenty of points for that with many people who know it’s the right call). But he must handle it delicately.
So, step one: Mara, Steve Tisch, Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman need to decide together on Manning’s fate, not only for after this season but for how much longer he’ll play this fall.
Then they should make clear to Manning when and under what circumstances they will play another QB. So if it’s one or two or three more losses that get Manning benched, he has time to play his way out of it while fully understanding the stakes.
Step two: Recognize that rookie Kyle Lauletta needs to play at some point this season, and start getting him ready for that eventuality. Start making Lauletta active for games.
Shurmur diplomatically said “there’s no reason to discuss” moving Lauletta above backup Alex Tanney “right now.” But later, on if he might feel the need to put Lauletta in a game this season, Shurmur said: “Listen: We’re not talking about a quarterback change yet.”
Yet being the operative word.
Lauletta has been taking only scout team reps, so he would need to start seeing snaps with the starters in practice weeks before he goes into a game. Or as the rookie said: “Whenever it’s a practice period, Eli’s getting those reps. Because he needs to be ready. I mean you’re not gonna prepare the guys who aren’t gonna be in there making plays on Sundays.”
Lauletta also said: “Eli’s the guy. And we’re all confident in Eli,” but he’s being a good teammate. Soon his time will come.