The Giants did not embrace Eli Manning only to shove him to the side just because a shiny, new quarterback shares a room at the office with the franchise icon.
The Giants did not agree to pay out the full amount of Manning’s contract — $17 million — and keep him on the books eating up $23.2 million in salary cap space to make him a backup to Daniel Jones as the season gets underway.
Nothing has changed from the organizational stance coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman have espoused — In Eli We Trust — even though Shurmur on Tuesday was either feeling frisky or purposely obtuse with his refusal to say there is no open quarterback competition this summer. No one in the building sees Jones overtaking Manning in training camp and the preseason, and everyone remains on board with Manning commanding the huddle against the Cowboys in the opener on Sept. 8 in Arlington, Texas.
“I think we are going to play the very best player, and I know we are dancing around the words there,’’ Shurmur said. “Right now, Eli is getting ready to have a great year and Daniel is getting ready to play. You see what happens with it. We feel good about where Eli is. He is our starting quarterback and we have a young player that we think is going to be an outstanding player, getting himself ready to play.’’
Can anything that happens from July 22 — when rookies report to training camp, with the full squad arriving two days later — and into the preseason alter the pecking order? It would take something monumental. Manning, at 38, would have to look old and feeble and Jones would have to prove he can handle the requirements of a job few can master as rookies.
Any coach worth anything knows how to smooth out the edges of a jagged quarterback situation. Shurmur is either oblivious to how media fires get started — all it takes is one small spark — or else he wants to inject some intrigue into “the quarterback stuff’’ that he correctly assessed “will be on the front-burner for everyone.’’
Manning was heartened to hear how vociferously Shurmur and Gettleman defended him following the 5-11 showing in 2018. Ever since Jones was taken with the No. 6 pick, though, it is as if the Giants are obsessed with assuring all who will listen that Jones is far better than his doubters believe him to be. Arm strength. Smarts. Makeup. All elicit plaudits that rarely contain any caveats. During practices this spring, Jones has shown he is not overmatched. Of course, the next time he dons shoulder pads with the Giants will be the first time.
Jones, 23, is younger and more athletic, the fresh (and familiar, given his resemblance to Manning) face that will bring this franchise into the 2020s. He is a rookie and thus cannot compete with Manning in terms of the mental gymnastics needed to turn bad plays into good ones and prevent opposing defenses from exploiting indecision.
“One guy, his name is on two of these [Super Bowl] banners, he’s the MVP, all that stuff,’’ veteran safety Michael Thomas told The Post of the difference between Manning and Jones. “With a guy with that pedigree, you ain’t really fooling him. It’s like, ‘OK, we’ll put in a disguise so we don’t give him the answer right away, but you’re not fooling him.’ ”
Even this clear Manning advantage was tamped down by Shurmur.
“I think Daniel has done a good job getting up to speed with all the things you have to do at the line of scrimmage,’’ he said.
Jones is as respectful and polite as they come, quick to extol the virtues of the way Manning prepares to play. Jones does not characterize himself as vying for the backup role. He never, ever, said he is preparing to sit.
“I think I have certainly made progress and am a lot closer than I was the first week of OTAs,’’ Jones said. “As far as am I ready, ready? I am not sure, I have never played. I am improving and making progress. That is positive.’’
Lest we forget, it was not long ago that offensive coordinator Mike Shula admitted he could envision Jones as a Day 1 starter.
“I think he’d be ready to go,’’ Shula said. “I think he has that capability.’’
That is not the plan. Shurmur seemed to indicate plans can change.