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Don’t expect fond farewell for Giants’ Eli Manning on Sunday

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

When Eli Manning says goodbye to the Giants, he deserves a big and fond farewell. He’s been the rock of the franchise for 15 seasons, led them to two wonderful, surprising and dramatic Super Bowl championships and will leave as the greatest quarterback this franchise has ever had.

But he won’t get that fond farewell on Sunday in the Giants’ season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, because there is still no indication that this will be his final game for the Giants at all.

That feels like old news at this point, even as some continue to insist the Giants will move on from the 37-year-old Manning this offseason. The fact remains, as several sources in the organization have told SNY, that no decision on Manning’s future has been made and that it’s still more likely than not that he’ll be their starting quarterback again in 2019. They have not identified his successor yet, nor is there a succession plan in place.

That’s why there’ll be no celebration or indication of any kind on Sunday that Manning could be playing his final game at MetLife Stadium. There’ll be no talk of a finale, no video tribute, no acknowledgement of any kind from anyone in the organization. It will be business as usual, with Manning starting and possibly finishing as the Giants try to beat their playoff-bound rivals in this meaningless game.

And after the game, you can bet that everyone – even Manning – will talk about the second half of the Giants season and how that’s an indication of a brighter future in 2019.

They’ve already been talking about that, and dropping hints that Manning will be back. Pat Shurmur recently echoed his preseason pronouncements that his quarterback still has “years” remaining in his career. And the Giants seemed to glow about Manning’s performance on Sunday in their 28-27 loss in Indianapolis, when he completed 25 of 33 passes for 309 yards. It didn’t even seem to matter that the game ended on an ill-advised interception.

To the Giants, Manning – who “did a heck of a job,” according to coach Pat Shurmur — still showed that he’s got plenty left in his right arm.

“He was spot-on,” receiver Sterling Shepard told reporters after the game on Sunday. “He was hitting open guys, getting the ball out quick to guys and letting them make plays. That’s all you can ask for. He shows that all the time. It’s nothing new.”

“I think Eli’s been doing some really good things,” Shurmur added on Monday. “I think we as a team – and it’s fair to say this about the quarterback too – we’re real close. He’s contributed in a really good way.”

That’s been the assessment of some in the Giants’ organization too, especially after Manning struggled during the 1-7 start while playing under siege behind a terrible offensive line. In the second half of the season the line has improved, the Giants have gone 4-3 so far, and Manning has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,621 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions – a healthy passer rating of 95.3.

That still doesn’t guarantee Manning will be back in 2019 at age 38. The Giants need to address the fact that he has a $23.2 million salary cap number for next season in the final year of his contract, and that they could clear $17 million of that by cutting him. That likely means a restructuring and even a short-term extension.

Whatever they do, a team source said they likely won’t make a final decision until several weeks after the season. Shurmur seems to like Manning and genuinely seems to want him back in 2019. There are some in the organization who think the Giants should consider moving on. A big problem is the Giants still don’t know who would be Manning’s replacement. There is sentiment in the organization to draft a quarterback in the first or second-round in April, but most likely that rookie would be told to sit behind Manning, possibly for the entire year.

So it’s all up in the air and weeks away from being decided, even though the winds seem to be blowing Manning back to the Meadowlands for one more year. The only certainty at the moment is that he’s not ready to say goodbye to the Giants and the Giants aren’t ready to say goodbye to him. That makes Sunday just another game in the Manning Era.

And it’s an Era that probably isn’t over yet.

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