At 33 years old, Eli Manning is no young quarterback. He’s been an integral part of the Giants’ roster since he joined the team, and he’ll likely continue to be an integral part of the team for the next half decade or more. Still, he’s at an age where the Giants need to begin considering their options in the post-Manning years. Will they throw everything they have at trying to milk out an extra Super Bowl or two from his career, or will they devote some of their resources to finding his successor and ensuring a smooth transition once he’s gone?
Being only 33, it’s probably not quite time for the Giants to be spending a first or second day draft pick on a successor, but that shouldn’t prevent New York from taking a late round shot at a guy with a lot of raw talent. If that’s the option the Giants decide to take, there are a number of big advantages to acting now as opposed to waiting for a few years.
The first advantage bringing in a young guy with a big arm is their ability to develop that player for several years before he’d be asked to take over on a full-time basis. Many young quarterbacks fail largely because the situation they’re thrown into isn’t a good one, and they lack the experience to overcome the adversity they face in the NFL. That wouldn’t be the case with a long-term developmental quarterback. Such a player would see plenty of practice time as well as preseason action to get him up to speed to the point of eliminating the shock many see between the college and pro levels.
By acting early, the Giants also give themselves the ability to shoot and miss without adversely affecting their long-term strategy. If New York decides to simply wait until the moment it’s apparent Manning is done to begin evaluating potential successors, the team will only get one shot at replacing a two-time Super Bowl champion. Those aren’t great odds, especially considering other teams over the past couple of decades that have failed to do just that. Essentially, the Giants should avoid becoming the modern day Cowboys, Dolphins, Bills or Broncos, all of which struggled to replace elite quarterbacks after they retired.
Tossing any potential replacements’ names out from deep in this year’s draft class wouldn’t necessarily be a counterproductive exercise, but it also wouldn’t accomplish much. Keep in mind that head coach Tom Coughlin will likely walk away before Manning. Because of that, any potential replacement for Manning would likely be of the next coach’s choosing.
The Giants are one of the most stable organizations in the league, and that intelligent and decisive approach to management has rewarded the team throughout the Coughlin, Manning era. At times, the Giants appear to be among the best teams in the league, but there have been trying times with the current regime. That hasn’t deterred the team from staying the course. You can bank on the Giants to take that same approach to replacing Manning. The team may not decide to pick up a developmental player just yet, but I can guarantee the Giants are already mulling over their options for ultimately replacing Manning. That’s what the best organizations in the league would be doing, and I count the Giants among the best.