By Ernie Palladino
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One never knows what can happen to even the most durable of NFL quarterbacks, which is why the Giants picking Cal quarterback Davis Webb in the third round Friday may work out after all.
But as that choice stands today, it is a dubious, if not an altogether wasted one.
It wasn’t surprising, in fact, to hear former Giant Shaun O’Hara deem it such a waste in his analysis on the NFL Network. Granted, O’Hara was a biased observer, he being a former center and the Giants still three rounds of uncertainty away from getting his old unit some much-needed help with sixth-round guard/tackle Adam Bisnowaty from Pitt.
But even if they had drafted one of the draft’s premier offensive linemen in the first two rounds, O’Hara’s point still would have been valid. The way things currently stand in the quarterback picture, Eli Manning is simply not going anywhere.
For Webb, the son of a football coach and self-avowed film junkie who lives to play football, a future of learning, clipboard carrying, and scout team activity lies ahead, with only the hope of an injury to Manning or a trade to a more open opportunity to keep him going.
Of course, no good backup truly roots for the starter to get hurt, so that’s out. Besides, Manning hasn’t missed a start since he took over fulltime as a rookie in 2004, a span of 211 straight including playoffs. Despite his 36 years, he has shown no signs of physical decline.
On top of that, general manager Jerry Reese came right out and declared Manning will author his own exit strategy. If he wants two more years, good. Three? Fine. If he can still play at a high level at 40, then so be it.
Though everybody realizes that any player’s career can end as quickly as Phil Simms’ — Dan Reeves unceremoniously cut him just weeks after Simms took the 1993 team to the playoffs — every indication so far points to the strong-armed Webb becoming another Ryan Nassib.
Remember him? The Giants drafted him in the fourth round in 2013. Much to Reese’s delight, he never started a game. Nassib threw all of 10 career passes, yet still got hurt last year despite never leaving the bench. Combined with a growing contract, he was deemed too expensive to keep, especially in light of Geno Smith’s dirt-cheap free agent deal, and was let go.
Nassib has yet to find another team.
This is what Webb’s future could look like. Coming from a Cal’s spread offense, he’ll need a lot of coaching to become a pro-style pocket passer. And if Eli somehow does take that one devastating hit that knocks him out for an extended period, it will be the veteran Smith, not Webb, who comes in.
That’s for 2017. Next year, Webb will probably rise to primary backup, one step closer to starting but a still a million miles away if the guy ahead of you is named Manning.
See how this is trending?
It would have been much smarter for Reese to go after one of the first-round quarterbacks due to come out in 2018. That way, Manning would have been one year closer to retirement. With a deeper talent pool expected, Reese might have broken his rule about not trading up in the first round to get a thrower ready to play immediately.
Instead, he blew a third-round pick this year on a quarterback who wound up at Cal only because he lost his job at Texas Tech to Kansas City’s eventual first-round pick, Patrick Mahomes.
Webb may well have a tremendous upside. He might have Hall of Fame talent.
But unless Manning steps aside after the next couple of seasons, the Giants probably will never see it.
They didn’t need a pass-catching tight end. Yet, Reese took Evan Engram in the first round.
There was no pressing need for a quarterback in a year where the whole right side of the offensive line needed rebuilding. Yet, Reese took Webb in the third round.
The former could make a small contribution to the passing game this year. The latter will certainly make no impact on the offense the next two years, and may never make one.
O’Hara was right.
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