A big fear of any NFL team, especially in the modern era, is to get stuck in what Giants GM Dave Gettleman called “Quarterback Hell.” It can doom a team to mediocrity, or worse. Sometimes it can last a decade or more.
Gettleman acknowledged that one year ago, speaking to reporters at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., about the prospect of the Giants taking a quarterback in last year’s draft. He warned that if a team picks the wrong guy “and he fails, you set yourself back five years.” And he described that “Hell” as having a team that has a “quality defense, they’ve got a good special teams, and they’re going 7-9, 8-8, 9-7.”
He wasn’t wrong. Drafting the wrong quarterback can be hellish for a franchise.
But that’s not the only kind of “Quarterback Hell.”
Another is the kind the Giants are on the verge of being in right now, as a team with an aging quarterback with a hefty salary cap number, one year left on his contract, and no obvious replacement ready to go. They’ve known this was coming for years, but in each of the last two drafts, they still failed to select a replacement for Eli Manning despite a plethora of franchise quarterbacks taken in each of the last two first rounds.
Things might have been different right now if former Giants GM Jerry Reese had traded up for Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson in 2017 (the Chiefs and Texans traded up for them from a draft position behind the Giants), or if Gettleman had taken Sam Darnold (or even Josh Rosen or Josh Allen) with the second overall pick last year. If they had, the transition from 38-year-old quarterback Manning would already be under way.
Instead, they’re left with a franchise quarterback with an uncertain future and no idea how they’re going to replace him, or how long that will take.
They absolutely can’t punt that decision into the future any further. By the time next season begins, the Giants have to either replace Manning, or know exactly how they’re going to do it. Either way, there’s uncertainty and a risk of falling into the “Hell” that Gettleman wanted to avoid. But not acting on this immediately could plunge the Giants to a depth that would make “Hell” seem like a Hawaiian paradise.
They need a solution now. Unfortunately, their options are slim.
Here’s a look at the possible quarterback choices the Giants are facing as the offseason begins:
Keep Eli Manning, draft his replacement in the first round
This made more sense last year when Darnold was sitting in the Giants’ lap, but maybe they’ll fall in love with Dwayne Haskins. A month ago, he was a borderline first-rounder. Now he’s looked at as a Top 10 pick. Who knows where he’ll be in three months?
Yeah, maybe Heisman Trophy-winner Kyler Murray will be in the mix, but he’s generously listed at 5-foot-10 and that’s far from the Giants’ sense of ideal. Regardless, the idea of having the Giants’ quarterback of the future learning from Manning (likely at a salary cap reduction) is the dream scenario.
Keep Eli Manning, draft his replacement in a later round
Rinse, wash, repeat. They tried this with Davis Webb two years ago and Kyle Lauletta last year. They can do it as long as they want, but the odds of them finding a Tom Brady, or even a Dak Prescott in later rounds are never going to improve.
Their best shot remains a first-round pick. What about a second-rounder on Missouri’s Drew Lock, Duke’s Daniel Jones or N.C. State’s Ryan Finley, if they’re there? The Giants’ second-round pick is high. They better be real sure, then, about a player every team already would have passed on once.
Sign (or trade for) Nick Foles
The Eagles QB, who turns 30 on Jan. 20, is the flavor of the month. And since he’s eight years younger than Manning, he makes some sense – if the Giants are sure they’d be getting the Foles from the last two late-season runs or the one from 2013 (when Pat Shurmur was his offensive coordinator), not the one from every other time in his career.
The Giants, in this case, would cut Manning, clearing $17 million in cap room, but Foles is going to cost at least that much, especially with the Jacksonville Jaguars apparently set on pursuing him (and maybe the Washington Redskins, too). And that’s if the Eagles don’t pick up his $20 million option. If they do, and he doesn’t buy his way out for $2 million, the Giants would have to trade picks for him and pick up the tab (assuming the Eagles would even trade with the Giants). That’s crazy for a player who at his best isn’t better than Manning, and could possibly be worse.
Sign Teddy Bridgewater
Nobody thinks he wants to leave the Saints, but if he does, he’s got a history with Shurmur, too. He’s also 26, so he could be a long-term option. He likely won’t be cheap, which means Manning will have to go and Bridgewater might eat up most of the cap savings.
One big caveat: He’s played one game since 2015 and it didn’t go well. Any team that signs him better be careful with the length of the deal, and better have a good backup plan because no one is certain his reconstructed knee will hold up over 16 games.
Trade for Jacoby Brissett
An interesting choice. He’s only 25, wasn’t bad in his one full year as a starter for the Colts (2017), and could be both the quarterback of the present and the future. He’s only signed through the end of the 2019 season, so the cost savings would be temporary – maybe enough, though, so that the Giants could keep Manning around one more year.
The big issue is that Colts GM Chris Ballard said he told Brissett “I’m not giving you away. Won’t do it.” He added that he’d consider a deal, but “It would take somebody doing something that would absolutely blow me away.”
If he’d take a second-round pick this year and future assets, the Giants should jump. Would they give up the sixth overall pick? If they were sure he was better than Haskins and more ready? Like I said, an interesting choice.
Trade for Josh Rosen
This is more fantasy football than reality, and it comes from an old video of Kliff Kingsbury saying he’d take Murray with the first pick of the NFL draft. At the time, Kingsbury was coaching in college. Now, he’s in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals who just happen to have the first pick of the NFL draft – and Murray just declared for that draft. Amazing.
Add in the fact that Rosen, the Cardinals’ first-round pick last year, probably had the least impressive rookie season of the five first-round quarterbacks from 2018, and now, the outside world thinks the Cardinals are open for business. Is it possible? Sure. Some in the Giants organization liked Rosen before the draft. The price would really have to be right, though. He’s probably not worth a first- or second-round pick to them anymore, and would the Cards give up a potential franchise quarterback for anything less?
Tank for Tua
OK, nobody’s tanking. But, in theory, the Giants could do what they’ve been doing and kick this decision down the road. The 2019 class of quarterbacks isn’t thought to be as good as last year’s class or the 2020 class, which should feature Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who might have been the No. 1 pick if he came out this year.
The problem with that, of course, is unless the Giants purposely lose enough to end up with the No. 1 pick, there’s no guarantee at all they can be in position to draft either one. So doing this is an enormous risk. They’d also probably have to extend Manning’s deal just to be safe, or spend extra money on someone like Foles or Bridgewater in case they end up missing on these two and having to punt the quarterback decision again, extending their “Hell” into 2021.