INDIANAPOLIS – The search for Eli Manning’s successor is, as Giants GM Dave Gettleman said, “a massive decision.” Because it’s not just about how well a quarterback can play. It’s about so much more than that.
“This is the face of your franchise,” Gettleman said. “He’s got to do all the right stuff for all the right reasons. You can’t go to bed at night worrying if he’s going to come in on time. You can’t do that stuff, no matter how talented they are.”
“Once you’ve seen that they’re a really good player, you’ve got to determine whether they’re a very good decision-maker,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur added. “That crosses over into all areas of their life because we all know what we’re looking for from the face of our franchise.”
That’s why, as closely as the Giants are watching the top quarterbacks throw and workout at the NFL scouting combine, they’re also paying attention to everything else. The 15-minute interviews are huge. But they also watch the behind-the-scenes interactions, how they speak to support staff and fans, how they carry themselves when they think nobody is watching.
And yes, their performances at their media interviews on Friday were important, too.
“When the game is over, they ask a lot of people what happened,” Shurmur said. “But every week, they ask the head coach and the quarterback what they think. That player is thrust into a position of leadership and being the face of the franchise.”
Though it can be tough (and unfair) to judge a person from one 15-minute press conference, the Giants had to like what they saw from at least one potential “face” on Friday. Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who remains the most likely of this quarterback class for the Giants to target with the sixth pick, was impressive at the podium. He was engaging, confident, charismatic and even funny at times. He managed to adeptly duck any loaded questions and didn’t come across too cocky.
He said enough without saying too much. He came across as both a big presence and seemingly very likable. It was, as the Giants likely noted, Eli Manning-esque.
Of course, that’s only one part of the formula. Haskins obviously has the talent, completing 70 percent of his passes for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns with only eight interceptions in his one season as the Buckeyes’ starter. At 6-3, 231 he has the size the Giants want in a quarterback. And while he hasn’t shown off his mobility the way Oklahoma’s Kyle Murray has done during his career, Haskins can move. He just prefers to stay in the pocket. And the Giants absolutely want a quarterback who can make all the throws from the pocket first.
“I can maneuver if I need to,” Haskins said. “But I’m deadly in the pocket.”
There are other elements to become a franchise quarterback too. The Giants know they’ve been spoiled in their 15 years (and counting) with Manning at their helm. His tenure may not have been perfectly smooth, but for the most part he has remained trouble-free. There is no evidence that he’s ever shown up late or skipped a meeting. He’s certainly never been caught doing something stupid, like getting arrested for a traffic violation after refusing a police officer’s orders, as rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta did when he was already late for work last October.
That’s a testament to not only Manning’s character, but his understanding that a franchise quarterback in New York is never out of the spotlight. Everything he’s ever done in public, and plenty in private, has been watched. Any misstep would have been noticed. And the Giants are surely grateful to have gone a decade and a half without many headaches from him.
That’s a lot of pressure, though, especially on a 21-year-old. But Haskins seemed to understand that.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Being the face of the franchise, everyone is watching you. You are the face of the team. You have to be able to lead other men. It’s a lot of responsibility.”
But is he ready for that kind of responsibility?
“Without a doubt,” Haskins said.
The Giants have another eight weeks to decide if they agree.