The Patriots and Rams show the New York Giants a future quarterback path.
The pathway for the Giants transition at quarterback was neatly laid out on ‘Championship Sunday’ by two games whose results were diametrically opposed to each other. They can still pursue their future quarterback in April’s NFL Draft while being perfectly content with their incumbent starter who is coming off a very solid year.
There is no denying that the clock is working against Eli Manning, the Giants quarterback is set to enter his sixteenth year in the league in 2019. Having recently turned 38-years old, Manning is in the final year of his contract with the Giants and at some point, the return on investment will begin to dwindle.
But as Tom Brady showed in the New England Patriots win on Sunday night, age isn’t necessarily prohibitive for sustained success. And in the NFC Championship Game, the 24-year old Jared Goff orchestrated a comeback win for the Los Angeles Rams. How these two merge together and could impact the decision making of the Giants will soon be clear.
Brady, who turns 42-years old next summer, is proving that the march towards (and beyond) four decades of age hasn’t slowed him down one bit. In this way, the Giants can look at Manning and feel confidence at a relatively high-level of play in 2019 and perhaps a season after that. Given that Manning threw for over 4,000 yards once again and had one of the best completion percentages of his career last year, he still can quarterback a team in the NFL.
Haters will say no, that it is time to move on. But for a team that showed some serious improvement in the second half of the year, Manning is the best option for the Giants in 2019. Some help added to the offensive line this offseason and suddenly, the Giants offense could be better this next season.
Manning could very easily replicate if not improve on his 4,299 passing yards with 21 touchdowns against 11 interceptions from a season ago. Those are solid numbers on a team that started the year 1-7 and didn’t improve until the offensive line came together during the second half of the year.
As Brady proved on Sunday and as Manning showed during the season, the Giants don’t need to panic and make a quarterback move just because of a number on a birth certificate. And in Goff, the Giants have a model of how to move forward with Manning’s successor. Picking sixth in April’s NFL Draft, there is a very good chance that the Giants will be in position to draft a young quarterback. If Dwayne Haskins is there, he could be a compelling pick and the Giants’ quarterback of the future.
The Ohio State quarterback has a big upside, even as he is raw. And Goff, taken first overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, is the type of return on investment that the Giants would love to get from Manning’s successor someday. But the Rams were patient with Goff, both in bringing him along and with his initial run as a starter.
Goff wasn’t named the starter until early November of his rookie year, sitting behind Case Keenum for half of the season. He wasn’t handed the starting job but allowed to learn and mature along the sideline.He completed just 54.6 percent of his passes in seven games as a rookie, with more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (five). The Rams didn’t rush Goff along. He grew into the role and won the starting job.
The success of Brady in the AFC and Goff in the Giants’ conference lays out a blueprint for this team. They can still start Manning and expect to be a playoff team. But they can also draft his heir apparent and develop him.
In the immediate, the Giants can expect Manning to still perform at a level, a standard that twice saw him beat Brady in the Super Bowl. But in the same breath, they can follow the Rams mentality in Goff and not rush along the quarterback they draft this year to eventually supplant Manning their starter.
The quarterback Brady beat on Sunday night, Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, sat all but one game last year as a rookie before becoming just the second quarterback in league history with 5,000 yards and 50 passing touchdowns in a season. Mahomes, like Goff, wasn’t brought along too fast. There is something to be said about allowing a quarterback to develop before being given the starting job. And there is something to be said on behalf of Manning in the here and now as well.