EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It’s hard to imagine what was going through Kyle Lauletta‘s head as he sat in a jail last Tuesday. He had to know that his chance to be the starting quarterback of the Giants was coming. And he had to know there was a chance he just threw it all away.
What he did last week was dumb. There isn’t a better description of the 22-year-old rookie’s decision to defy police orders after he made an illegal turn in Weekhawken, N.J., as he was rushing to get to work. He knew he was already late and was going to be in trouble with his coaches. He had to know “resisting arrest” was only going to make things worse.
But the fact that he resisted anyway and got arrested, the fact that Lauletta embarrassed himself and the team, and the fact that he created an unnecessary bye-week distraction, can’t interfere with what’s in the best interest of the Giants’ franchise and its future.
They still need to let Lauletta play at some point this year.
That actually seems more important than ever following his unfathomable arrest, just when he seemed on the verge of getting his big opportunity. The Giants need to see what they got in their fourth-round pick out of Richmond. They need to see if he can handle playing against NFL defenses.
And now they need to see if he can get his act together, start being responsible, and act as a quarterback should.
That’s important, of course, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that Eli Manning, at 37 years old, may not be the Giants’ starting quarterback next season. There’s also a really good chance that the Giants will have a Top 5 pick in the NFL draft, and they might be able to find Manning’s replacement there.
It’s a similar situation to last year when they made the terrible mistake of not taking a look at rookie quarterback Davis Webb down the stretch of a lost season. They had no idea what he was capable of doing before they went into one of the most crucial drafts they’ve had in years.
They can’t make that mistake again.
They need to know what they have in Lauletta, as much as they possibly can, before they make any post-Manning decisions. And now they need to know if he can live up to the higher standards that quarterbacks are held to in the NFL. The quarterback is the face of the franchise, the example to teammates, and the one who sets the tone for his entire team.
And this was a terrible way for Lauletta to show he’s capable of doing that.
“I’m disappointed because I think especially with a quarterback, you’re looking at decision-making in all facets of a player’s life,” Shurmur said on Tuesday as the Giants returned from their bye week.
And it wasn’t just the decision to defy police orders. It was that when he did it, he was already running late to the team’s morning meeting.
“The way I look at it,” Shurmur said, “quarterbacks should be early.”
Yes, they should. That’s just the way it goes. And to his credit, Lauletta seemed to get it. It just can’t happen to a quarterback — especially a young one trying to become the leader of one of the NFL’s most storied franchises for the next 10 or so years.
“I showed with what happened that I made a bad decision — I made a horrible decision that I’ll regret for the rest of my life,” Lauletta said. “I can’t take it back, though. There’s nothing I can do now, so the only thing I can do is make good decisions moving forward and show up to work early every day and work my butt off and just try to prove to everybody not by what I say but what I do.”
Lauletta did hit all the right notes in front of his locker on Tuesday. He took full responsibility. He was apologetic to his coaches, to his family, and to the police he defied. There was no deflecting, no excuse-making. Many, many players have handled similar situations worse.
“Right is right, wrong is wrong,” Lauletta said. “My parents raised me better than that and it’s tough, but you just got to move forward from it and take it as a lesson. I’m very regretful that I did that and I’ll do everything that I can to make sure that that doesn’t happen again. These guys know who I am and these guys know what I’m about, but it’s still unfortunate and I have to deal with the consequences and that’s that.”
The consequences included a hefty fine from the team, according to a source — an automatic one for missing practice that day, and likely a little more. Shurmur said Lauletta’s punishment “will not include a suspension,” but it’s a good bet that even if the Giants were thinking about elevating him to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, he won’t be active when the Giants play in San Francisco on Monday night.
Will the arrest affect his playing time? Shurmur was noncommittal, saying “that will take care of itself.”
Whatever that means, it has to include Lauletta making a start or two later this season. It has to include an increase in practice reps to get him ready for his debut. Shurmur already has put Manning on notice about his future, promising nothing beyond a start against the 49ers on Monday night.
That means Lauletta’s time is coming, as long as he keeps showing up on time and stays out of jail, and no matter what happened last week, that’s the right move. The Giants drafted him for a reason. Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman saw some potential. They believed he could develop into an NFL quarterback over time.
There’s only one way for them to find out if they were right about that. And in this lost season, they owe it to themselves to get that process started. They need to find out if Lauletta is good enough and mature enough to be Manning’s successor.
And if he’s not? It’s much better that they find that out now.