When the Giants released Davis Webb before this season, cutting the quarterback with the best arm, best training camp and best chances of replacing Eli Manning, it seemed clearly intended to protect Manning and avoid a repeat of last year’s benching fiasco with Geno Smith.
And sure enough, the team-friendly Week 13 “narrative” — as this regime is fond of saying — is that Manning can’t be benched because the options behind him aren’t good enough.
Sure. That passes the smell test: Using the low quality of the quarterback room that Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur assembled themselves — including Gettleman’s fourth-round pick of Kyle Lauletta that is apparently already a failure? — to validate Manning’s presence as starter.
That reflects so well on ownership, on the GM and on the head coach. It really does.
Can you hear the skids being greased for Manning’s return in 2019? Not a strong QB draft, no better options on the roster. On and on. That’s fine. As long as the Giants continue to operate the same way, they will continue to get the same results. That’s on them.
Meanwhile, Shurmur is trying to sell that backup Alex Tanney, 31 could be a possible long-term solution at quarterback. “Who knows?” the coach said Monday. So the Giants apparently are going to be the franchise that identifies the star in Tanney that no other team ever saw.
And Shurmur is selling Tanney as a possible long-term solution, even though the Giants quit on Webb, 23, a Jerry Reese third-round pick, before they even had finished their morning coffees.
Man. It’s hard not to get nauseous with all this spin, like riding the teacups at the county fair.
But isn’t it unbelievable that we are still having this conversation? That one year later — despite the firings of Ben McAdoo and Reese and public embarrassment of Manning last fall — John Mara’s Giants are essentially in the exact same miserable spot. And, yet, are they about to make the exact same mistake of failing to look at their young quarterback?
I am doing my best to believe, despite everything the Giants are saying, that Shurmur still intends to play Lauletta at some point this season. While Lauletta’s arrest undoubtedly disappointed Shurmur and the Giants, there has been no concrete indication that it is delaying the Giants’ initial timeline for playing him.
And hey, it may happen in Week 14 at Washington, because Tanney very well could play the second half this Sunday against the Bears (8-3), if Manning’s Giants (3-8) are being shut out and embarrassed by Chicago’s ferocious defense led by Khalil Mack and strong safety Eddie Jackson.
So there is still time. And Shurmur can say what he wants about his bye week conversations with Manning being overblown, but the reality is the head coach seemingly did the right thing to lay the groundwork for Manning to understand how the rest of the season would play out.
Now, to be clear, when I watched Lauletta in training camp, I did not see an NFL quarterback, certainly not a more promising quarterback than Webb. But the Giants privately have expressed excitement about him in the interim, so it would be spin in hindsight if they suddenly reversed course and soured on him — unless his arrest really did do him in and they haven’t expressed those feelings publicly.
It is disingenuous, though, for the Giants to claim Manning is still starting because he gives the team the best chance to win while they simultaneously decimated their run defense by trading Damon Harrison in the name of playing younger, developing players in Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill and RJ McIntosh who are getting muscled out of their gaps routinely.
Harrison was not winning any teammate of the year awards, but his trade to Detroit for a fifth-round pick made this year’s team worse. We’re looking to the future on defense but not on offense? Explain that, please.
This all starts at the top, though, with co-owners Mara and Steve Tisch. And Mara, even though he wants the best for his franchise long-term, too, is tired of losing games in the present. So when the Giants go on the field on Sundays, Mara wants them to win. There will be no tanking on his watch.
So Shurmur is in this precarious middle ground, it seems, of playing a skeleton roster and a shell-of-his-former-self quarterback with a few star talents. And somehow Shurmur is being blamed as the primary reason for a defeat to the reigning Super Bowl champions.
And everyone is interpreting Odell Beckham Jr.’s criticism of Shurmur’s “game plan” as a shot at the coach when OBJ also is referring to the several plays in Philadelphia when either he or Sterling Shepard were open downfield and Manning checked down.
Think of it as Beckham diplomatically saying what both he and Lil’ Wayne said months ago.
But Shurmur on the radio Tuesday took an apparent shot at Beckham’s halftime hydration issues when he said of kicker Aldrick Rosas, “it doesn’t matter to him whether he got a good night’s sleep or he was hydrated … he just goes out there and kicks.”
And on Monday Shurmur said “I don’t see teams spending extra resources to block (Olivier Vernon) — and “narratives” of Vernon loathing are surfacing — even though the Philly game film shows Vernon double-teamed at times and pressuring more than he’s getting credit for, while the Eagles run the ball away from him constantly and he finishes several plays at full speed down field.
Manning meanwhile watches from afar, the ultimate untouchable. In fact, if I had to put a $10 bet down right now, I would gamble that Beckham and Vernon are both off this team before Manning is.
And Gettleman is out on the road scouting quarterbacks, even though he did nothing in his counterproductive first offseason to indicate he’s the right man to pick the Giants’ next one.
And the Giants seemingly are laying the groundwork for Manning to return in 2019 as their starter.
And they are probably expecting different results.
And it’s a mystery why that is.