Eight teams are gearing up for playoff games this weekend. Eight other teams are in the midst of coaching searches. Success and stability on one end, failure and turbulence on the other.
The Giants are not involved in either endeavor as they lick their wounds and move past the 5-11 record that cemented their sixth losing season in the last seven years. The first year for general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur produced more of the same, accompanied by vows that things are different. The only certainty is that the Giants are not good enough. Not close to being good enough.
There are no easy fixes. Here are some suggestions as the offseason kicks off with the Giants, once again, on the outside, looking in, as it comes time for the most meaningful football to be played:
No, the guy does not have a lifetime appointment as the starting quarterback and yes, despite the arm strength he’s retained and the movement he shows rolling out of the pocket, Eli Manning’s physical skills have regressed when it comes to reaction time and his ability to ignore the mess around him and get the ball down the field. He is 38. It happens. Manning is not shot, though, and the options if the Giants move away from him are not appealing. Nick Foles will cost a ton — perhaps $20 million a year — and going the veteran quarterback route in free agency is always risky business, just ask the Vikings (Kirk Cousins) and Broncos (Case Keenum). Joe Flacco and Ryan Tannehill could be available. Interested? Didn’t think so.
Bringing Manning back comes with a caveat: He must restructure his contract to at least slice his salary-cap cost of $23.2 million in half. This can come in the form of a two-year extension that pushes the salary cap hit down the road and makes it realistic for the Giants to cut him if the 2019 season does not go well.
The time has come to end the parade of faceless backups. As Gettleman said, you cannot force things in the draft, especially at quarterback, but every rule has an exception. Taking Ohio State sophomore Dwayne Haskins with the No. 6 pick is not wise — unless Giants scouts see a huge upside in him that others do not. There is some noise the Giants are intrigued with Ryan Finley of North Carolina State. If so, take him in the third round, if he lasts that long, for a year of sitting and learning behind Manning. If they prefer Daniel Jones out of Duke, so be it, take him in the second round. These are not awe-inspiring prospects, but the time for rinky-dink backups is over. The 2020 draft will be all about Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, and Georgia’s Jake Fromm is probably better than anyone in this year’s class. To get them, though, a team has to really stink in 2019 and the Giants have endured enough of that.
Or else, if Shurmur is a believer in Teddy Bridgewater from their time together with the Vikings, see if he will sign for a moderate deal, the selling point being he gets first crack at the job after Manning struggles or leaves. Bridgewater is young enough (26) to take it if he cannot find a wide-open starting assignment elsewhere — there could be openings in Jacksonville, Denver, Miami and Washington — unless he wants to wait out Drew Brees in New Orleans.
The talent level in the Giants quarterback room must rise. Manning-Bridgewater-Kyle Lauletta as a depth chart is a start. Manning-2019 draft prospect-Lauletta is less desirable, but at least a step in the right direction.
Landon Collins cannot do everything at strong safety, but he does enough and should be re-signed. The team that traded up to get him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft has done him a disservice with the has-beens and never-weres paired with him at free safety. Collins never had a backfield mate he could fully trust and rely on, forcing him to overextend and peek backward when he should have been attacking forward, as he is at his best the closer he is to the line of scrimmage.