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Eli Manning’s future with Giants no sure thing

When Giants fans turn up at Giants Stadium Sunday to watch the home team play the Cowboys in the 2018 season finale — however many bother to do so based on this disappointing second consecutive year out of the playoffs — there will a distinct undercurrent of emotion flowing through the building.

It’s possible that Eli Manning will be playing his final game with the Giants after 15 seasons, 230 starts, more than 55,000 yards passing, nearly 360 touchdown passes and — most importantly — two Super Bowl titles.

Reading the tea leaves, you get the feeling that Manning will be back for one more season in 2019, the final year of his contract, but at a reduced rate from the $23 million he’s scheduled to count against the salary cap.

Listening to head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula, they have both made it rather clear of late that they think Manning still can play winning football.

The problem is that he hasn’t played nearly enough winning football in the past three seasons. The Giants are 13-31 in Manning’s last 43 starts, dating back to the wild-card playoff loss in 2016. That number understandably has many Giants fans fed up and calling for an end to the Manning era.

The problem with simply moving on from Manning, though, is the fact that there don’t appear to be a lot of options better than retaining him for another season.

But what if Manning — a proud player who has done so much for the franchise (beginning with being available for 15 seasons without missing a game due to injury) — is told by management that in order to stay he must take a pay cut and he refuses?

Surely, there will be many things at play once this season finally ends, beginning with the Giants evaluating the college quarterbacks entering the draft and whatever quality veterans may be available in free agency (Nick Foles and Teddy Bridgewater will be the best of the group if they’re not re-signed by the Saints and Eagles, respectively).

The first thing that needs to take place once the season is over — and surely will — is a conversation with Manning.

When Shula was asked on Thursday if he thinks Manning still can play good football and “be around for a few more years,’’ he said, “Oh yeah.’’

“Eli’s been great,’’ Shula said. “It’s been great working with him. I feel lucky to coach him and I feel bad that we haven’t won more games. We’ve been close on some and we know we all got to get better and I think we will and he will and as we evolve in this system and be around each other more.’’

Seven of the Giants’ 10 losses have come by a touchdown or less this season. That’s one of those statistics that can either seduce teams into thinking they’re closer than they really are or be a true measure that they are that close to being a playoff contender.

“We certainly didn’t succeed in reaching our goals, but this group is not … they aren’t failures,’’ Shurmur said. “There’s a lot of growth that happened from what was a 3-13 team (from 2017).’’

Are Giants fans going to feel any better about finishing 6-10 with a win in a meaningless game against the Cowboys, who are headed to the playoffs and don’t need this game, than they would 5-11?

Both 6-10 and 5-11 would be improvements over 3-13, but was it enough?

Certainly, more was expected from Shurmur in his first season despite the fact that he ripped apart the roster and virtually started fresh. But how much more should we have expected out of the Giants this season with a new head coach with a new staff and a revamped roster?

One thing is certain: Much more will be expected in 2019, with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley in his second season — even if Manning is throwing the ball and handing it off again.

Manning was grilled during the week about his future, whether he thought he would be back in 2019 or if Sunday might be his last game as a Giant. He was, as expected, stoic as ever, not revealing an iota of emotion.

“I view it as the last game of this season, and that’s it,’’ Manning said when asked if he’s thought about Sunday being his last game as a Giant.

Asked if he would consider taking a pay cut to return next season, Manning said, “We’ll handle all of that after the season.’’

Manning pointed out that, “I didn’t know last year, either’’ about his future, adding, “So, we’ll figure it out.’’

“When you get to year 15,’’ Manning said, “these things come up.’’

Original article: https://nypost.com/2018/12/30/eli-mannings-future-with-giants-no-sure-thing/

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