Giants fans don’t want to hear this, but Marc Ross said it anyway Thursday: Eli Manning “can’t play forever.”
Ross, the former Giants VP of player evaluation, tried his best to steer clear of discussing Manning’s December benching when asked about it on ESPN’s NFL Live Thursday afternoon. And it’s obviously a sensitive subject: Ross was fired less than a month after the Manning drama cost both GM Jerry Reese and coach Ben McAdoo their jobs.
But Ross was candid about how, even if the Giants could have handled Manning’s situation differently in 2017, this is an issue that’s not going away for new GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur in the coming years.
“He’s a two-time Super Bowl MVP, his pictures are all throughout the building, everybody loves the guy. We saw what happened last year when it didn’t go his way,” Ross said, alluding to how Manning cried, refused to start a Dec. 4 game in Oakland knowing he’d come out at halftime, and asked the team to issue a press release announcing the move. “And it’s gonna at some point have to happen again. Now how will it be handled the next time? But he can’t play forever. So we’ll see what happens next time.”
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The issue of how much longer Manning, 37, will play is coming to the forefront again with the Giants holding the No. 2 overall pick in the draft in position to draft Manning’s successor if they’re not sure Davis Webb is the guy.
Manning has only two years left on his current contract, and last season, regardless of the myriad injuries to his top receivers, Manning played poorly, missing throws and making some bad and costly decisions.
Giants president John Mara, after signing off on the move away from Manning, has made clear that the new plan is to go back to Manning in 2018. And both Gettleman and Shurmur appealed to Mara and the Giants in part because they shared that pro-Manning view. But the Manning timelines seem to be getting carried away.
Surrounding Manning with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., more weapons and a better line to make one more run at it in 2018 — two at most through 2019 — is one thing.
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But on Wednesday, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., suggested the Giants might draft Penn State RB Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall to continue building around Manning for approximately “the next three-to-five years.”
That doesn’t seem realistic.
Ross was reticent to go into more detail, but even when first asked about Manning, he made reference to an upcoming decision for the new regime on the face of the franchise QB.
“I was on the road scouting at the time, so I’m not talking about it. I’m gonna leave that one alone,” Ross said with a smile about the benching of Manning. “But I think it was something that had been talked about and discussed, and in hindsight it could have been handled differently; some people say it could have, some people said maybe not. It happened, Eli’s still a major presence there … and they just have to decide going forward what to do with that situation.”
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Ross had a few more noteworthy insights that Giants fans should hear:
Ross on when he knew the Giants season was going to get bad:
“Actually the Eagles game, the third game of the season. You know we went to Dallas the opening game, we usually play well down there, we played bad. Then we come back Monday night, we’re honoring the ’07 Super Bowl team, we play bad again. And then the third week we go down to Philly, start out playing bad and then we start rolling in the second half like, ‘Alright, this is turning our season around;’ then that rookie kicks a 61-yard field goal and it just felt like this is not gonna be right — and it just felt like the Eagles are gonna be magical and we were having a rough year. And it kinda just kept spiraling from there. A lot of emotions, a lot of turmoil and just to lose a good friend and mentor in Jerry Reese, and Ben McAdoo I got close to. People gotta realize these are real people with families.”
Ross on whether Beckham will be back healthy in 2018:
“I think Odell will be back better than ever, just (because of) the type of drive he has. I’ve been around some gifted guys. He might be the most gifted player I’ve ever been around. And his passion, his desire will make himself become better than he was before.”
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Ross on how he thinks Shurmur will fare as head coach:
“Pat, I used to work with Pat in Philly back in the day. I think he has the personality and demeanor to get it done.”
Ross worked as a Bills national college scout from 2004-06 before joining the Giants as director of college scouting in 2007, a position he held through 2012 before a promotion to VP of player evaluation. He then ran the Giants’ drafts and therefore was responsible for the drafting of talent such as Odell Beckham Jr., Landon Collins, Sterling Shepard, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Pugh.
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