Pat Shurmur After Giants' Loss to Cowboys: 'I Believe in Eli Manning'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2018

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2018, file photo, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) talks with head coach Pat Shurmur during the second quarter of an NFL football game in East Rutherford, N.J. When things go sour, an NFL team's fan base often points to two people: the guy calling plays on the sideline, and the man behind center trying to execute them. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur reiterated his desire for Eli Manning to return as the starting quarterback in 2019.

"I believe in him," Shurmur said of Manning after Sunday's 36-35 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, per 247Sports' Dan Schneier. "I believe in Eli Manning."

Shurmur also said he hopes to have all of his key players—Manning included—back for next year.

Earlier this month, Shurmur told reporters he thought Manning had enough left in the tank to be a starting quarterback for multiple seasons going forward.

Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr., who had been critical of Manning earlier this year, said recently he hoped to give his quarterback a third Super Bowl title, a sign he wants Manning back as well.

The 37-year-old is under contract for 2019 before he's eligible for free agency. The Giants could cut bait this offseason if they wanted to go in a different direction at quarterback. According to Over the Cap, they'd save $17 million while absorbing a $6.2 million salary-cap hit by either trading or waiving Manning.

Following Sunday's game, Manning finished 2018 with 4,299 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He entered Week 17 ranked 23rd among qualified quarterbacks in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement), per Football Outsiders.

Strong arguments could be made for both retaining and releasing Manning.

Since he only has one year left, the Giants can keep him on the roster while positioning his replacement—likely an early-round selection in the 2019 draft—to take over in 2020. The Kansas City Chiefs used a similar strategy with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes.

New York may prefer to get the transition started right away, and the early success of Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson illustrates how rookie QBs can thrive in a starting role.

The fact both Shurmur and Beckham have spoken positively about Manning would seemingly signal his return is likely. But the final decision ultimately rests in general manager Dave Gettleman's hands.