Daniel Jones-Eli Manning Transition Can Happen This Season for the Giants

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 25, 2019

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) practices alongside quarterback Daniel Jones, left, before an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Gary Landers/Associated Press

It's easy to understand why the New York Giants might remain somewhat skittish about when and how to make the inevitable transition from Eli Manning to Daniel Jones at quarterback. 

Two years ago, the organization was unfairly lambasted for sitting Manning late in a lost season. The Giants were 2-9 at the time, and then-general manager Jerry Reese offered a logical explanation for the move. 

"This is not a statement about anything other than we are 2-9," Reese said, "and we have to do what is best for the organization moving forward, and that means evaluating every position."

The Giants also gave Manning the option to keep his 210-game starting streak going anyway (he declined), and then-head coach Ben McAdoo offered a fair justification as well. The season was essentially over and they wanted to get a look at potential successors Geno Smith and Davis Webb. It was that simple. 

But fans, media and former players proceeded to tear apart the organization, and it didn't take long before the front office caved and handed the job back to Manning. 

He has a special place in the hearts of Giants fans. Manning became a legend when he led the team to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 2007, and he became somewhat of a sports god among Giants supporters when he did the same thing to the Patriots in 2011.

That begot a strong emotional response when he was essentially benched. Folks felt he didn't "deserve" that based on accomplishments from more than half a decade earlier, even though Eli hadn't won a playoff game since that 2011 Super Bowl and had been to just one Pro Bowl since 2013. 

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

But a lot has changed in the last 21 months, partly because nothing has changed with Manning. Still no postseason wins since 2011. Still just the one Pro Bowl nod since 2013. Among 29 qualified quarterbacks dating back to 2012, he ranks 25th in passer rating and first with 110 interceptions. Even to those who continue their weekly ritual of watching commemorative DVDs of Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, it should be obvious that the 38-year-old is just about toast. 

We're also not talking about Smith or Webb anymore, because the Giants look as though they have something special in their rookie No. 6 overall pick.

The organization has been forced to continually remind us that there's no quarterback competition and that Manning is the starter. Moments after the team drafted Jones in April, general manager Dave Gettleman suggested they could follow "the Green Bay model, where [Aaron] Rodgers sat for three years." While that might be extreme, it's clear they're rooting for Manning to at least hold down the job for the entire 2019 campaign. 

"I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field," co-owner John Mara said earlier this month, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post

It's also easy to understand why the Giants—who exercised Manning's $5 million roster bonus in March—don't want to pay a guy $23.2 million to hold a tablet. 

The "problem" is Jones has consistently drawn rave reviews. The Duke product impressed during the offseason program, which led to praise from head coach Pat Shurmur before training camp. 

"We really haven't seen anything he can't do in terms of playing quarterback," Shurmur said last month, per ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, while also noting that the 22-year-old had "exceeded expectations" to that point. 

Frank Victores/Associated Press

And that hasn't changed this month, with Jones completing 25 of 30 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns in three preseason games. That's a passer rating of 140.1, which is tremendous regardless of the fact that he's gone up against mainly reserve defenders. 

The Giants are conservative, the highly paid Manning is their dude and Jones has yet to take any first-team reps, which means there's no hope the baton will be passed before the team's season opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 8. 

But this transition can happen in 2019, and it can be clean and drama-free. The ingredients are there, and if Manning struggles at all this year, the fans, media and former players who griped about the 2017 fiasco will be out of reasons to throw a fit. 

History indicates Manning will eventually struggle, and if you were to pinpoint a specific part of the schedule that could be problematic for him, it'd be a three-game stretch from Week 4 to Week 6 during which the Giants play the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots in a 12-day span. 

That could be real tough on Eli, and if he hasn't upped his game, and the Giants aren't winning, it'll present an ideal opportunity to make a change under center. That matchup with the Patriots takes place on a Thursday, essentially giving the Giants a mini bye ahead of a Week 7 home game against a weak Arizona Cardinals team that will also likely start a rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray. 

That'd give Manning three final home contests to soak up the love and adoration of the fans whose lives were changed by his indelible Super Bowl moments, and it'd be damn fitting for his final game to come against the Pats team that he slayed in those two unforgettable championship tilts.

It'd also give us all 10 days to adjust to the Jones era, which would start on October 20, 2019. 

And that'd give Jones some real-game work during what is expected to be a rebuilding year anyway for the Giants. It would give the team a better feel for his progress entering the 2020 offseason, and a sense of what changes he and they have to make before the team tries to compete with its new franchise quarterback in a new decade and a new era. 

Just throwing it out there. This can happen, it can happen soon, and it can happen smoothly. 

                    

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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