Big Blue Would Be Better Off Spending 2018 Grooming Manning's Successor

By Jason Keidel
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A recent report by MMQB’s Peter King suggests the Giants might draft someone, anyone, but a quarterback.

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You can dismiss it and toss it back into the rumor mill, which always has its subterfuge and semantics this time of year. But King’s sources aren’t the only ones who seems to think the Giants will pass on a passer in the 2018 NFL draft.

If this is posturing, then aren’t the G-Men doing it in reverse? If they want to drum-up interest in the No. 2 pick, then they should be publicly salivating over Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen. Let one of the other forlorn franchises think they have to offer Big Blue a Ricky Williams or RG3-sized package to inch up the draft ladder to bag their franchise quarterback.

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From left, USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and UCLA’s Josh Rosen (credit: Getty Images)

If the Giants truly want running back Saquon Barkley, edge rusher Bradley Chubb or guard Quenton Nelson, they can easily milk a few picks from another club, move down a few spots and still bag a top-rung prospect. The worst thing they can say is that they don’t care for a quarterback, if they are indeed saying that.

But none of these back-room whispers should be happening, because the Giants should forget about being the most clever team and be a smart team and draft a quarterback. According to the latest mock draft, six QBs will be taken in the first round. Unless the Giants think Baker Mayfield, Mason Rudolph or Lamar Jackson is their next signal-caller for the next decade, they can’t play head games with the second pick.

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It’s charming that new general manager Dave Gettleman thinks so much of Eli Manning that he has given him carte blanche to run the offense for as long as he can, but 37-year-old quarterbacks (not named Tom Brady) have very short shelf lives. The best move, the only move, for the Giants is to draft Manning’s successor, let him clutch a clipboard for a season and let him learn how to play like a pro and live like one. Even if you think Manning is little more than a pedestrian player who simply got hot for eight playoff games and stole two rings from Tom Brady, no one dispute’s Manning’s calm, courage and professionalism. You can’t teach a young QB how to harness the indestructible Manning DNA, but you can learn how to win big in the league’s biggest market.

The only sweet residue from their disastrous 2017 season is this draft pick, which is accidentally good for being shamefully bad. You could argue that this was the worst season in franchise history, and certainly the worst since the lost years of the 1970s.

Sports fans often have microscopic attention spans, which often lead to prisoners of the moment. Such a mantra was spawned last month when we heard that franchise QBs are overrated because Nick Foles won the Super Bowl, beating the ultimate franchise QB in the process.

Gettleman knows this. While he may not have won a Super Bowl ring in his last gig, he came within four quarters of winning one with his own franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, who led the league with 45 total touchdowns and won 15 games, NFL MVP and the NFC title before losing to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50. And surely Gettleman didn’t hire offensive guru Pat Shurmur as head coach so that he could replace Manning with Geno Smith, as the last regime tried to, with gruesome results. Shurmur turned Case Keenum into a 13-3 quarterback. Imagine what he can do with Darnold, Rosen or Allen.

There are some fine players at peripheral positions, like Notre Dame’s Nelson, who looks like a Pro Bowler for the next 10 years, or Georgia’s Roquan Smith, who could be the Giants’ most gifted linebacker since Lawrence Taylor, or Barkley, who has the size of a fullback and the feet of Reggie Bush. But none of them can replace Manning, which must be Big Blue’s biggest goal in 2018.

There are no shortcuts to winning in the NFL. The Giants just learned that. You can’t just splurge on free agents and expect to win 12 games. You win through the draft, and you win the draft by bagging your next franchise quarterback. We can debate who that is, but not whether they need one.

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Please follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel