Eli Manning saw media congregating around his locker after Tuesday’s Giants practice and said he would be speaking on Thursday and wondered if reporters were waiting for “Kyle.”
Minutes later, rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta delivered a necessary and emotional apology for his arrest last week in Weehawken, an inexcusable traffic run-in with police prompted “by waking up late” that he called “a terrible representation of who I am and what I stand for.”
But not even Lauletta’s legal problems could take the spotlight off of Manning as the central figure in the biggest Giants quarterback development during the Week 9 bye.
Pat Shurmur revealed that he and Manning had talked “a couple times” this past weekend about the future, and the head coach had told Manning he would remain the Giants’ starting quarterback in San Francisco on Monday night.
But Shurmur also essentially put Manning on notice and informed him of the stakes of keeping his starting job: pretty much, if the offense clicks and the Giants start winning, Manning will keep playing. But if the offense and team keep falling short, other “decisions” could be on the table.
“He’s starting Monday … with the idea that he’s gonna get us on a run here,” Shurmur said. “Then there’ll be no decisions to be made.”
The coach’s communication with Manning, 37, and his clarification of where the two-time Super Bowl winning QB stands, was an important and necessary step coming off of last year’s top-to-bottom organizational breakdown when they bungled moving on from Manning.
Lauletta may have been readying to play at San Francisco prior to his arrest, but his “internal consequences” seem to be delaying his debut even though the Giants aren’t suspending him. So Shurmur smartly is pivoting to give Manning one more shot at preserving his place.
Shurmur was clear on Tuesday when asked if Manning will start the rest of the season, however, that the answer is largely in the quarterback’s own hands.
“I explained to Eli that everybody needs to play better, and as we go through this, it’s important that we’re not almost in these games; we do what we have to do to get it over the top and win football games,” Shurmur said. “I spoke to the team about that, and I also spoke to Eli about that specifically. … In other words, part of the conversation was, ‘We trust you, we want to work with you, and we trust the fact that you’re gonna get in there and help us win football games.’”
Lauletta still appears poised to enter a game relatively soon, though, the second that Manning’s offense falters badly (which could happen as early as this week). Shurmur even characterized Lauletta’s standing as “back to work trying to get himself ready to play.”
The coach claimed there is “absolutely” a chance journeyman backup Alex Tanney could play, too. But if that’s true then Shurmur also should know there is a bridge for sale in Brooklyn.
If Manning sits, Lauletta will be the quarterback who plays for him.
That did not stop Manning from reaching out in support of Lauletta last Tuesday, though, after the rookie QB’s arrest.
“I do appreciate Eli,” Lauletta said. “He reached out later that day and it meant the world to me. It really meant a lot.”
Lauletta, 23, for his part, said “sorry” on Tuesday to everyone: to the police officers he allegedly almost struck with his car and dismissed when stopped; to his coaches and teammates and family, and to the fans. And he said the entire chaotic episode was caused “by waking up late.”
And that last fact remains truly, unbelievably baffling, considering how close Lauletta was/is to playing quarterback for the Giants in his rookie year as a fourth-round pick out of Richmond.
“We’re disappointed because I think especially with a quarterback you’re looking at decision-making in all facets of a player’s life,” Shurmur said. “The whole event’s disappointing. The way I look at it, quarterbacks should be early.”