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Giants’ QB succession plan not yet in focus, but time to decide is now

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

PHOENIX – Dave Gettleman dreams of finding the Giants’ next franchise quarterback, and ideally he’d have him sit and learn behind Eli Manning for a year. John Mara likes that idea too, but isn’t opposed to waiting until 2020 to find that next quarterback, too.

By then, of course, Manning will be gone. Or maybe he won’t be.

In other words, a quarterback transition that should have been in the works for years still isn’t finalized, and might not be for a while.

And that puts the Giants squarely on the edge of “Quarterback Hell.”

It’s a dangerous game the Giants are playing with their franchise, and it can’t go on like this for much longer. They should have begun the transition away from Manning several years ago, but they kept punting this decision down the road. They could’ve solved it by being aggressive in 2017 and trying to trade up for DeShaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes. They could’ve done it last year too, when they drafted running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2 while letting a trio of potential franchise quarterbacks slide by.

So here they are, entering the final year of the 38-year-old Manning’s contract, with no clear succession plan in place.

What exactly are they doing about their quarterback future? And is there any way they can actually have a smooth transition from Manning to the next guy? That possibility seems to grow slimmer every time someone from the Giants organization speaks. But there’s no question about this: Their ideal scenario is what Gettleman called “The Kansas City model” — where they draft a quarterback in the first round next month, and groom him to be ready to start in 2020.

But there’s no guarantee that they’ll find a quarterback this year that convinces them to try and make that model work.

“I think that would be a great scenario if it happened,” Mara said at the NFL owners meetings on Sunday night. “But I don’t want it to force a situation where if the value for the quarterbacks this year is not there, then don’t take one. If it’s there, yeah, take one. It would be a great situation to have somebody in place to sit behind Eli for some period of time, see how he prepares for each game, see what a professional he is. A young quarterback can only get better doing that.”

It has to be the right quarterback, though, Mara said. They are looking for someone special and won’t “force” the issue if they don’t feel a special quarterback is there. And Gettleman, speaking last month at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, made it clear he’s not looking for a mid-round developmental quarterback or even a second-tier prospect in the second round.

He believes that the best way to find a franchise quarterback is to grab one of the elite talents in Round 1. And the Giants, thanks to the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, have two chances to do that — with the sixth and 17th picks.

But ….

“I would like to come out of this draft with a quarterback, but here’s the thing: Show me what the grades are. What’s the value?,” Mara said. “If the top quarterbacks are graded towards the bottom of the first round or even the second round, I’m not going to insist that we take one at No. 6 or even No. 17. Show me what the value is. That’s always been our philosophy on that.”

Mara said the Giants are still “a long way from making that determination” about the value of the top quarterbacks, though they have begun scouting them intensely. They were heavily represented at the Pro Days for Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Missouri’s Drew Lock — including by head coach Pat Shurmur. They sent a contingent to see Will Grier‘s Pro Day in West Virginia. And even though Shurmur will still be in Arizona at the NFL meetings on Tuesday, the Giants will have a strong group at Duke that day to see Daniel Jones.

Scouts and personnel people around the league seem to agree that Murray and Haskins are the only quarterbacks worthy of the sixth pick. If the Giants wait until 17, it’s likely they’d select Lock or Jones. That, of course, is if any of them are available at those picks. At the moment, the Giants don’t seem to have the same conviction on any of these quarterbacks that Ernie Accorsi had about Manning 15 years ago when he was determined to do whatever he could to move up (or trade for him) before he was gone.

“The worst thing you can do is try to force the issue and then you end up with a quarterback that isn’t worth taking at the particular spot,” Mara said. “Would we love to have a quarterback coming out of this draft? Yes, but only if we have a conviction about him. And we’re not there yet.”

They better get there quickly, though, because time is most definitely running out before they risk spending years jumping from journeyman to journeyman — a nightmare they’ve endured between franchise quarterbacks before. If it’s not Haskins or Lock now, maybe it’s Josh Rosen if the Cardinals make him available, or maybe they take the risky bet that they’ll be in position to draft one of the quarterbacks in the strong 2020 class.

But they really need an answer, because this year-to-year, play-it-by-ear plan doesn’t have a clear happy ending for their franchise. Presumably Manning can’t play forever. The time to settle on his successor is right now.

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