Dave Gettleman was absolutely right when he said “This narrative that Eli (Manning) is overpaid and can’t play is a crock.” Of course he can play. Just look at his numbers from last season. And he’s not even one of the Top 10 highest paid quarterbacks in the league anymore.
Yet somehow over the last few years, Manning’s detractors have taken his late-career decline to ridiculous extreme. They make it sound like he’s a 50-year-old who can’t heave the ball 10 yards anymore, while he’s eating up half of the team’s space under the salary cap.
Cut through the noise and the delusion, though, and here’s the reality: Quarterbacks cost money, and Manning is worth the price – even if that is a cap number of $23.2 million. He is still, even at age 38, one of the 32 best quarterbacks on the planet, and it’s not hard to make the case he ranks much higher than that.
Think about it: If you could draft any quarterback to play for the Giants this season, would it really take you that long to call Manning’s name?
It shouldn’t. So let’s try it. If you could pick any quarterback in the NFL for the Giants, right now, to give them the best chance to win this season with their current roster, who would it be? This isn’t about the future. Anyone would take a young quarterback like Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold over Manning for that. And this isn’t about money or salary cap space either. It’s also not about past performance or how he would help your fantasy team.
One quarterback. One season. This season. This team. Who gives the Giants the best chance?
Here’s my list:
32. Josh Rosen, Cardinals
The most disappointing of the rookie QBs last year. One touchdown pass over the last five games shows little growth. Still has talent. Maybe a change of scenery (Giants?) will do him some good.
31. Josh Allen, Bills
Big arm, lots of talent, but everyone always knew he’d be a project. It took him until Week 17 to really look like an NFL quarterback, so he still has a long way to go.
30. Marcus Mariota, Titans
Quite possibly the worst starter in the NFL if you don’t count last year’s rookie class. Over the last two years, he’s thrown 24 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. That’s after a big sophomore year in 2016. He was supposed to be so much more than that.
29. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
He runs, he makes things happen, and he wins. But in seven starts, he threw for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns. Five. He topped 200 passing yards once (204 in Week 16). Quarterbacks are not going to consistently win like that.
28. Case Keenum, Redskins
He was decent for a Vikings team that was led by its defense to the NFC championship game and cashed in. Then last season, he was so mediocre the Broncos couldn’t wait to trade him in for Joe Flacco. He’s another very valuable backup, but little more.
27. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins
He seemed like he was having a half-season for the ages last year, but as big as his numbers were, he was on pace for 24 interceptions. That’s always been his thing. Big numbers, but big interceptions, usually in big spots.
26. Joe Flacco, Broncos
He’s always had a big arm, but he’s never really been an elite quarterback. Also, his decline the last two seasons has been dramatic. Of all the quarterbacks in the 34-40 range, he’s the one NFL scouts think has lost the most.
25. Sam Darnold, Jets
His ceiling is enormously high, but as good as he was at times last season, his overall performance was typically blah for a rookie. He’ll make a jump in Year 2, but it would take a big jump to get to the top half of this list.
24. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
Eight starts, mediocre numbers, a couple of big injuries, and a ton of hype. Maybe he’ll be great, if he ever stays healthy. That’s a big leap of faith to assume it’ll happen right now.
23. Mitch Trubisky, Bears
His big breakout last season that supposedly proved he was worthy of a No. 1 pick yielded 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 14 games. And in December, he wasn’t very good at all.
22. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
Character problems aside, he puts up decent numbers but makes way too many mistakes (14 interceptions in 11 games). Maybe new head coach Bruce Arians can save him, but his ceiling seems lower than it once did.
21. Andy Dalton, Bengals
It always feels like he gets off to a hot start, then fades away. He may limit mistakes, but rarely has big performances. Put him squarely in the game-manager category for his career.
20. Nick Foles, Jaguars
Yeah, I know, he’s everybody’s favorite backup and he’s been magical for Philly since he started his Super Bowl run last year. But he’s never played a full season, never topped 3,000 yards, and only once topped 13 touchdowns. Take away his 2013 season (2,881 yards, 27 touchdowns two interceptions) and what is he? Everybody’s favorite backup, and not much more.
19. Baker Mayfield, Browns
He is a hard one to rank because he was incredible for a rookie last season (63.8 completion percentage, 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns, 14 interceptions in 14 games), and gave life to the downtrodden Browns. Will he be better in Year 2, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. on his side? Maybe. But how much can you trust a second-year QB?
18. Matt Stafford, Lions
He’s pretty comparable to Manning, right down to the beating he’s taken behind a bad offensive line. His big dip last season drops him a bit, though. Plus, he doesn’t have the same big-game pedigree.
17. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
He can be so brilliant at times (like when he threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns in the season finale against the Giants), but other times he just manages the game for Ezekiel Elliott. He does that well, but a few more big games would be nice.
16. Cam Newton, Panthers
The last three years, he’s fallen into an abyss of mediocrity. He hasn’t topped 4,000 yards since 2011 or 24 touchdowns since 2015. His completion percentage last year (67.9) was great, but it was his first out of the 50s since 2013. He can run, just not as well or as much as he used to do. Honestly, he looks beaten down.
15. Derek Carr, Raiders
He was a rising star right up until he got hurt at the end of the 2016 season. He looked like he was back last season (68.9 completion percentage, 4,049 yards, 19 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, all while being sacked a ridiculous 51 times). At 28, he’s got a huge upside, but a lot of work to do to really join the elite.
14. Eli Manning, Giants
He completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,299 yards with 21 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions despite playing behind a terrible offensive line that got him sacked 47 times. He also played better late in the season, even though he lost his No. 1 receiver for the last four games. He’s not what he used to be, but putting up those numbers in those circumstances? Saying he’s done is definitely “a crock.”
13. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
The money ($84 million guaranteed) and a bad December had many questioning this signing. But he still completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 4,298 yards, 30 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. And look at his last four seasons. He’s consistently good.
12. DeShaun Watson, Texans
Again, assume full health, and he’s as dangerous a two-way quarterback as there is. He’s also dangerous in the pocket and accurate (68.3 completion percentage, only nine interceptions). He took a big step forward last year.
11. Carson Wentz, Eagles
His health is a major risk, so for the purposes of this exercise assume he’s healthy. The last two seasons, he’s been brilliant when he is. He’s so good at creating plays on the move and he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
10. Jared Goff, Rams
He just led his team to the Super Bowl and he’s been absolutely brilliant over the last two seasons. Was it because of Sean McVay’s offense? Sure. But Goff had to run it and he puts a lot of his deep throws right on the mark.
9. Matt Ryan, Falcons
If his defense and coach hadn’t wilted in the Super Bowl a few years ago, we’d be talking about Ryan as a future Hall of Famer. He was as good as any quarterback in the NFL last season with 4,924 yards, 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His team, however, was a mess.
8. Philip Rivers, Chargers
He’s been incredible the last six seasons or so under difficult conditions in San Diego/Los Angeles and with a questionable team around him. It all finally came together last year. Now if he can only win the big game.
7. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
He lost Le’Veon Bell from his arsenal, and he went out and put up career numbers across the board last season. He’s tough, he can win big games, he’s as strong as anyone in the pocket. Character/leadership issues aside, he’s still one of the best.
6. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
A terrific dual-threat quarterback who has thrived even without having the best weapons around him. He should have two Super Bowl rings and a Hall of Fame ticket, if only Pete Carroll had called a run instead of a pass at the end of XLIX.
5. Andrew Luck, Colts
He’s so easily forgotten because he’s played on bad teams behind bad lines. But look what he did last year (67.3 completion percentage, 4,593 yards, 39 touchdowns, 15 interceptions) after missing all of 2017 with an injury. He’ll be even better this year.
4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
The reigning NFL MVP was spectacular last season, and the fact that he’s only done it once keeps him from topping this list. His ability is crazy. His potential is limitless. In two years, he figures to be atop everyone’s list.
3. Tom Brady, Patriots
He’s the GOAT, but his numbers have dipped recently and it looked like the Patriots tried to protect him with more of a run-heavy scheme last year. Still, in the clutch, with one drive to win a game, would you pick anyone else? You’re crazy if you said yes.
2. Drew Brees, Saints
A tough call over some of the ones that come next, mostly because he’s 40. But he’s completed over 70 percent of his passes the last three seasons. His 32-to-5 TD-to-interception ratio last season shows he’s still got it.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Still the man, and the best at making something out of nothing. Only threw two interceptions last year. Hasn’t hit double-digits in that category since 2011. He’s 35, but he’s still magic.