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John Mara won’t rule out Eli Manning as Giants QB in 2020

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

PHOENIX — The Giants have committed to Eli Manning as their starting quarterback in 2019, but what about having him back in 2020, too?

Don’t laugh, because there’s a scenario where it could happen that’s not completely farfetched. And it’s worth noting that neither of the Giants’ co-owners would rule it out.

The idea of Manning returning for his 17th NFL season at age 39 wouldn’t be a popular one, and might even be a longshot considering his contract runs out at the end of this season. But if the Giants truly are committed to the “Kansas City model” — where a young quarterback sits behind Manning for a year — then the possibility exists.

Because the Giants don’t currently have a young quarterback to sit behind Manning, co-owner John Mara said at the NFL owners meetings there will be no edict from ownership to take one in this year’s draft.

So if they don’t draft one now, that means they might not find their Quarterback of the Future until the 2020 draft. And if they really want their next quarterback to learn from Manning, he’ll have to still be around in 2020 too, right?

“I think you take it one year at a time,” Mara said. “I’m not looking past ’19 at this point.”

Added co-owner Steve Tisch: “I think you’ve got to get through ’19 first.”

That, of course, is not a “No.” It’s also not a “yes” either. What it is, is a testament to the uncertainty surrounding the Giants’ quarterback situation in the future. They have known for years that they needed to start searching for Manning’s eventual replacement, but they have yet to actually do it. Now they have two first-round picks — thanks to their recent trade of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — and there’s the very real chance that they decline to address their quarterback situation again.

“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.

“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. 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. We’re a long ways from making that determination.”

Mara insisted their desire to follow the Kansas City Chiefs’ blueprint — when they drafted Patrick Mahomes and had him sit behind veteran Alex Smith during his rookie season — won’t make him change his philosophy on that. Yes, having his next franchise quarterback learn from his current one is ideal. But no one says it has to happen this year.

“I think that would be a great scenario if it happened, but I don’t want it to force the situation,” Mara said. “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.”

And if that can’t happen this year, then maybe a rookie next year will have to learn the ropes from someone else. Or who knows? Maybe Manning will be back for one more seemingly final run.

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