By Ernie Palladino
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Once the Giants euthanize their season Sunday, their biggest question will go beyond what to do with Eli Manning.
Now, thanks to the team’s other less successful and far less respected Eli — Apple, that is — the big issue becomes whether to blow up the whole darned roster and start over.
Apple pushed the question to the forefront by getting himself suspended for Sunday’s finale against Washington with yet another argument with the coaches that followed an absence from the practice field.
What the 2016 first-round pick — a lofty No. 10 overall, by the way — failed to realize is that players work for coaches. And when the boss says “Go practice with the scout team,” it’s a good idea to obey him.
But Apple is only part of the problem, though the most disposable one. According to ESPN, the suspension could take the Giants off the hook for the guaranteed $4.3 million they’ll owe him over the next two years. So cutting him outright shouldn’t be too hard for new general manger Dave Gettleman. Nor will he shoulder the embarrassment about lopping off a first-round pick.
Gettleman didn’t take him in the first place.
But the most recent manifestation of a Giant’s immaturity and petulance started long ago, well before Landon Collins designated Apple as a “cancer.”
Gettleman will have to decide on whether it’s worth it after 2-14 or 3-13 to continue a policy of tolerance not only toward Apple, but others like Odell Beckham Jr. and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins.
Each had run-ins with former head coach Ben McAdoo. DRC and Jenkins earned suspensions and Beckham earned himself a sit-down with co-owner John Mara after his incontinent dog act in Philly. With Beckham angling for a huge extension, Gettleman might just decide that the two or three big pieces OBJ would bring in a trade have more value than one super-talented but maddeningly ethereal wide receiver.
Remember, the Giants need to restructure an offensive line that hasn’t run-blocked since Ahmad Bradshaw left and hasn’t pass protected the past two years. They’ll have to invest millions to fix that mess. That will be a lot easier to accomplish if they’re not funneling millions of additional bucks on a long-term deal that would make Beckham the league’s highest-paid receiver.
Recall this, too. They went 6-15 with Beckham from 2016 to his Game 5 injury against the Chargers. His level of play before the broken ankle was far from season-changing.
As for the offensive line, the Justin Pugh situation will likely weigh heavily on Gettleman. He was the most solid part of that offensive line before back problems landed him on IR. Tough, smart, versatile, and team-driven, he’d be worth having back at the right price if healthy. Chances are, the Giants are not going to open the vault as wide as another team might.
But the Giants knew Pugh’s situation. They also know what Manning’s deal is. They can certainly use him, even with fading skills at 37. But the new staff, like the deposed McAdoo, will have no loyalty toward him. And Manning may not want to play the new Kurt Warner-like mentor role to Davis Webb, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, or anyone else the Giants see as their future franchise quarterback.
It’s the other guys who have become problematic. A policy of tolerance created Beckham. The suspensions of Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins should have lasted more than one game and served as a warning about further miscreant behavior. Apple might even have changed his ways with an immediate, unpaid suspension of a couple of games rather than what amounted to a four-game, paid vacation on the inactive list.
As a result, the offseason question has expanded from a single concern about an aging quarterback to a good chunk of the roster.
Keep working with the rotten apples who either broke apart or embarrassed the organization, or throw out the whole bushel and start over?
Gettleman and his head coach will have to solve that.
But they’ll soon realize that Manning’s future has become the least on the list of headaches.
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