Giants general manager and ornery math-hater Dave Gettleman did his year-end press conference on Wednesday. Predictably, the questions tended to angle for information about the team’s quarterback situation, where Eli Manning has become a tomato can while somehow also putting up one of the more conventionally solid statistical seasons of his career.
Sure, yes, the statistics are mostly empty. The Giants started the season 1–7; everything that happened after that feels like empty calories, no matter how generously Gettleman appraises their offensive performance. But it was a lot easier to pin New York’s woeful season on Manning’s miserable play back in Week 9; with the benefit of a full season under his belt, his numbers show a career-best completion percentage, a career-best interception percentage, and a respectable 4,300 yards passing, all behind a hilariously shaky offensive line. Manning is now 37, and his best days are long, long behind him, but the Giants screwed up his farewell once already. Gettleman, when asked directly whether he’s committed to Eli as their quarterback next season, sounds like a guy who knows that moving on from Eli is more complicated than it might seem:
“Here’s what I’m committed to do. I’m committed to making the best decision in the interests of the New York Football Giants. That’s what I’m committed to do. We’re in the evaluation process. I know that you guys want answers now, but very frankly I didn’t come in yesterday. So I’ve gotta do what I do, which is get in my office and watch film. We’re gonna meet this week with the coaches and get their evaluations, we’ll meet next week with pro personnel and get their evaluations.”
Contrast that “gotta eat the tape” procrastination to Gettleman’s answer to questions about another key offensive contributor, though, and you start to sense the shape of things. When asked about Odell Beckham Jr.’s future with the team, Gettleman laughed aloud and quipped, “We didn’t sign him to trade him,” before frostily shutting down a clarifying follow-up. Obviously the nature of their respective positions make the circumstances meaningfully different—the Giants can tinker with Beckham’s role without trading him or gluing him to the bench, whereas there can be only one starting quarterback—but where the suggestion of moving on from Beckham is apparently laughable, it’s both appropriate and telling that Manning’s future is subject to sober film study, and is discussed using phrases like “brutal honesty” and “tough decisions.”
For his part, Manning sounds unsure both about his future with the Giants and about whether he’d continue in the NFL if the Giants decided to part ways, telling WFAN, “I don’t know if it’s leaning one way or the other right now, I think this is kind of the time to reflect and figure out what’s the best thing going forward.” Probably the happiest non-fantastical ending to Manning’s career would’ve had him choosing to retire this offseason, so that the Giants could move to the next guy without conflict or controversy. Instead, it sounds like the old goober is ready to suit up for at least one more season, and the back half of this lost season provided just enough of an opportunity for Eli to cobble together a case for himself and make Gettleman’s decision at least a little awkward. It’s worth remembering, last time the Giants borked this up it cost Gettleman’s predecessor and an unpopular head coach their jobs.