New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is destined to go out the same way he broke in.
In 2004, Manning, the first overall selection in that year’s draft, began his rookie season sitting behind veteran and future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. Warner led the Giants to a 5-4 record after nine games when head coach Tom Coughlin decided to flip the switch and insert Manning into the starting role.
The Giants went 1-6 the rest of the way behind Manning, finishing 6-10 on the season. Manning was anything but impressive as a rookie, completing just 48.2 percent of his passes for 1,043 yards with six touchdowns and nine interceptions for a paltry QB rating of 55.4.
But the Giants had ripped off the band-aid and began the Manning era, one that would bring them two Super Bowl championships and many more thrills and highlights.
That era is nearing its end now that the team made Daniel Jones the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. Manning is entering the final year of his contract and, barring something unforeseen, it is all but certain that this will be his last year in blue.
Manning will play the season under a constant watch. He needs to play near-perfect football to stave off the inevitable. No one knows that better than Warner.
“The biggest challenge is that your leash is always short,” Warner said last month. “The biggest challenge is performing every single week, and anytime you slip up, no matter how good you’ve been, it’s an opportunity for everybody to sit back and go ‘Is it time? Is he hitting the wall?’ Two (bad) games in a row and it’s ‘Oh my gosh!’”
The Giants are not as bad their 5-11 record indicates (sorry, Bill Parcells), losing close games due to an ineffective offense early on followed by a stretch of leaky defensive performances.
Those issues appear to have been addressed this past offseason. The Giants are building a better offensive line and have added a bevy of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
When the switch at quarterback will occur this season is still unknown. Manning is still the picture of health and has a full grasp of the offense going into his second year running it. Jones has a lot of catching up to do, but head coach Pat Shurmur likes the versatility Jones brings to the table. He can move and rarely makes an errant throw.
If the Giants are .500 or better at the halfway point of the season, will they be as bold as Coughlin was back in 2004 and make the move, or will they let Manning play out the string and try to make the postseason?
The Giants have become a desperate organization of late and becoming less and less of what they were in the past. It doesn’t appear the plan is as clear as they are letting on. Then again, they have been so unpredictable, no one will be surprised when this move does — or doesn’t — happen.