“We always think about every position, but Eli is 36,” general manager Jerry Reese conceded, via the New York Daily News, in Monday’s season-ending press conference. “We have started to think about who’s the next quarterback, who’s in line. So we’ll look into that as we move through the offseason.”
The Giants roster lacks a developmental quarterback prospect. That’s an obvious concern for a front office that watched Manning’s offense fail to score 30 points in any game this season after topping the mark seven times in 2015.
“Thirty-six, I don’t think that’s ancient for a quarterback,” Reese continued. “I think he’s probably on the back nine, but I don’t think that’s ancient for a quarterback.”
For the uninitiated, “back nine” is a golf term used by football executives to acknowledge a veteran approaching the decline phase of his career.
The same standard can’t be applied to all quarterbacks reaching their twilight years.
Thumbing his nose at Father Time, Tom Brady‘s completion percentage, TD-to-INT ratio and passer rating have increased each season from age 36 to 39. Manning, on the other hand, clearly regressed at age 35, finishing 23rd in Gregg Rosenthal’s QB Index, 27th in Total QBR and 35th in Pro Football Focus’ metrics.
The Giants failed to reach 20 points Sunday for the sixth consecutive game, a stretch of futility unmatched in Manning’s 13-year career. An Eagles team breaking in a rookie quarterback with a maligned wide receiver corps finished with more points and yards this season — a damning indictment of Ben McAdoo’s offense.
Saddled with poor pass protection and an inept ground attack, Manning was asked to shoulder a heavy load in 2016. He couldn’t deliver.
Reese described the offense’s dramatic downturn as a “mystery.”
While it’s impossible to separate the quarterback’s production from his surrounding talent, it’s worth noting that Manning’s passes have been dying at the catch point since midseason. From mid-November through the end of the season, he was the worst deep passer in the league, overly reliant upon Odell Beckham‘s transcendent talent to reach scoring territory.
Although Peyton Manning’s abrupt decline late in the 2014 season turned out to be an accurate harbinger of retirement, it doesn’t follow that Eli is toeing the cliff due to his own extended slump.
“Man, it felt like last year,” Tye said. “The way he was zipping it around. Eli was slinging it.”
Whether or not Manning returns to 2014-15 form, the Giants would be wise to shift him toward a caretaker role complementing a championship-level defense — and, hopefully, an upgraded rushing attack.
With Manning poised to enter that transition phase, Reese understands the urgency of unearthing a talented young quarterback capable of doubling as an insurance policy as well as a succession plan.