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Pat Shurmur throws Alex Tanney curveball into Giants’ QB plans

The two-week respite from the noise and the narrative is over and done with. The Giants are back to their losing ways and thus it is open season on when or if Eli Manning is told to take a seat in order for the coaching staff and front office to get a look at rookie Kyle Lauletta.

Or Alex Tanney?

Yes, Alex Tanney.

“I would just say this, based on doing what quarterbacks do, all along he’s been our number two guy, right?” coach Pat Shurmur said Monday, the day after a 25-22 loss to the Eagles realistically, if not mathematically, ended the faint playoff hopes the Giants toyed with the past two weeks. “Aside from the fact Kyle was drafted in the fourth round, all along [Tanney] has been our No. 2 guy, so he does the things that we think can help us win games.”

The Giants are 3-8 and Shurmur said Manning will start Sunday against the Bears at MetLife Stadium. The question came up and Shurmur immediately shot it down.

“Gosh, you got to think of some other questions, my goodness,” Shurmur said. “You go every week with giving your team the best opportunity to win the football game, each week. Each week. That’s how you do this. This isn’t player tryouts. This is do everything in your power to win the next game.”

Shurmur is not a newbie when it comes to NFL coaching and he knows teams must take a look at their young players down the stretch of losing seasons. He pointed out the Giants already have many young, inexperienced players on the field. This is true. Changing quarterbacks is more of a franchise-shaking scenario. Shurmur gets that as well. At this point, he views Manning as the best quarterback on the roster. This comes as no surprise, considering the options are a 31-year old journeyman (Tanney) with one NFL game on his résumé and a fourth-round pick from Richmond (Lauletta) who might be a marginal prospect, but is best known as a rookie for an unsightly traffic violation and arrest.

“You base your decision on putting a team on the field that gives you best chance to win the game,” Shurmur said. “I get that. But, as the coach, I stay in the moment. We certainly have conversations about what runs parallel, right? The short term and the long term. There’s conversations about that that happen all the time, in any organization. You’re a big corporation, right? Your short-term gains and, ‘OK, where the hell are we going?’ Yeah, I’m not foolish enough to think that doesn’t happen.”

Manning is coming off an uneven performance. At times, he and his offense were unstoppable in the first half at Lincoln Financial Field as the Giants raced out to a 19-3 lead. The second half was an abysmal mess. Manning did not throw to a wide-open target, tight end Rhett Ellison, on a two-point conversion try on the first series of the game. Manning threw a brutal interception in the closing seconds of the first half, costing his team a field goal that would have extended the lead to 22-11. Manning also burned a timeout late in the third quarter prior to a third-and-18 play.

Asked if he expects to start the remaining five games, Manning said, “I expect to start until I’m told not to. Expect to start this week, looking forward to playing and go from there.’’

This conversation clearly bothers Manning, who at times almost looks physically ill when asked about his job security and his future with the team.

“Hey, I want to play,” he said. “You-all can speculate and you-all can what-if. It’s not my decision.”

Tanney is considered a place-holder, active as a backup for all 11 games because Shurmur believes he could go into a game and function, despite limited reps in practice, should anything happen to Manning. Lauletta is more of a prospect, albeit a lukewarm prospect, and was thought to be first in line to get a start or playing time.

Alex Tanney
Alex TanneyCharles Wenzelberg

“Why are you jumping over Tanney?” Shurmur said. “At some point regardless of where they’re picked, unless you’re one of those top four quarterbacks, who cares where you’re picked? He’s a Giant, right? He went to college, right? If you were third in your class, you’re third. We’re going to worry about the other two? So what’s the difference?”

Could Tanney possibly be a long-term solution?

“Who knows?” Shurmur said.

The Giants have not been blown out, and if this keeps up, there will be no organic way to get a backup quarterback on the field in games Manning starts. Co-owner John Mara has said not getting a look at rookie Davis Webb down the stretch of the awful 2017 season was a mistake.

“We’re going to try to do what we can to win the game but along the way we do keep a long-term mindset on it,” Shurmur said.

For now, Manning starts. After that, who knows?

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