Pat Shurmur likes Eli Manning. Really likes him. Manning is what Shurmur wants in a quarterback: Calm, refined, company man, consummate worker and leader-by-example rather than leader-by-talking.
This does not mean Shurmur will give Manning a free pass for the remainder of the season. The reluctance to implement the transition to seeing the younger quarterbacks on the roster has much more to do with the feelings about Kyle Lauletta than Manning’s performance through 11 games.
Simply put, the belief is Lauletta is not ready. Shurmur and staff watch practice every day. Lauletta as a fourth-round pick from Richmond is a developmental prospect in the nascent stages of any potential NFL career. He is not getting the keys to the offense handed over to him. Not now.
His arrest for a slew of driving violations and resisting arrest play a role here as well. The incident is not going to be held against Lauletta forever, but it did bring into question, in the minds of the Giants, the decision-making and judgment of the 22-year old.
At this point, if Shurmur were instructed by ownership to bench Manning (a scenario that will never happen) it would be Alex Tanney getting the start. This by no means indicates Tanney is viewed as any possible successor. Tanney, 31, is more ready to function in an NFL game than Lauletta, which is a sad reality to the entire Giants’ backup quarterback situation.
As the Giants prepare for a five-game slog to the finish, a few issues to contemplate:
• There are always veterans to watch when the season officially goes south. It would be wise to keep an eye on Janoris Jenkins and Olivier Vernon. Both make big bucks and most likely are playing their final five games for the Giants. Usually, that is not a combination that brings the best out of a player.
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• Shurmur scoffed at the idea the Giants, with little regard to what will actually happen on the field, must start Lauletta to see where he fits into the quarterback picture in 2019.
“This isn’t player tryouts,” Shurmur said. Well, it sort of became player tryouts when Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Eli Apple were traded away. If it is not, to some degree, player tryouts, why did rookie R.J. McIntosh get 12 snaps at defensive tackle in his first game since getting activated? Tryouts at quarterback, though, are a completely different deal.
• Shurmur now knows what Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo learned as Giants head coaches: Managing Odell Beckham Jr. is a full-time job. Beckham questioning the lack of shots down the field against the Eagles is not a big deal, but it is a deal. Shurmur was not happy about it. Beckham is a great player and hard worker but, at times, a handful in terms of what he says and how it sounds.
• There is always a reason players are available. The Rams, less than five months after re-signing inside linebacker Alec Ogletree to a four-year, $42 million contract extension, traded him to the Giants for a fourth- and sixth-round pick. Astounding, right? Wrong. Ogletree was the 76th-ranked linebacker in the league in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus, and his issues in coverage are apparent with his new team. Solid guy, good leader, but there are no guarantees he is part of the rebuild moving forward.
• One season into his NFL career, tight end Evan Engram was a rising star, despite too many dropped passes as a rookie, oozing with talent as a first-round pick. Injuries, not getting into the flow and reduced playing time turned year No. 2 into a painful learning experience for Engram, who is now saying things like, “I was raised to smile in the face of adversity.”
Engram is mature beyond his age (24) and will figure it out, but this goes to show the trajectory is not always upward without a few detours interrupting the climb.