New York Giants: Eli Manning a perfect mentor for young quarterback

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Whatever the New York Giants plan to do at quarterback, Eli Manning remains the ideal mentor for a potential successor in 2018 and beyond.

Those who don’t work for the New York Giants cannot say, for sure, what the club intends to do with the second pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, probably because general manager Dave Gettleman and company don’t know. Fans who follow mock drafts with a religious fervor likely realize there is no consensus top quarterback in this year’s class. Maybe you’re in the Josh Allen business. Perhaps you rate Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold atop your draft board. Josh Rosen is a favorite among those who don’t care about any perceived character flaws.

Then, there are those who believe the Giants cannot pass on running back Saquon Barkley. This take stems from the hope that veteran Eli Manning, who turned 37 years old in January and who is probably in the early stages of his final season with the team that drafted him back in 2004, can still start and win at the highest level, and also the idea that Davis Webb can develop into Manning’s successor at some point before 2020.

Assume, for the sake or argument, the Giants will acquire a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft, either with the second pick or by trading down with a team that is willing to go all-in on one of the advertised top available prospects. Per scouting reports and analysis produced by multiple respected observers, there is no sure thing in this class. That’s somewhat worrisome, but Giants fans can rest easy knowing Manning is, potentially, the best mentor on any NFL roster heading into the summer of 2018.

Manning’s controversial removal from the starting lineup last fall, and the way it was handled, for all of four quarters probably played a part in then-head coach Ben McAdoo being shown the door. It also angered pockets of the fan base who called into sports talk radio and commented about the matter via social media platforms. As mad as customers got about McAdoo ending Manning’s consecutive starts streak, the two-time Super Bowl MVP was all business during midweek preparations and on the sideline.

More from NFL Spin Zone

As former Giants player and current analyst David Diehl explained, Manning spent his first morning as a backup in 13 years working with the previously mentioned Webb in the team cafeteria. In an industry where athletes, coaches and executives alike often care more about their brands and their futures, whatever the cost, Manning did his job without throwing anybody under any a figurative bus, a reaction that would have been forgivable and understandable.

His willingness to help continue mold somebody who may, in the future, replace him on the depth chart came as no surprise to people who have followed his career since his rookie campaign. This is the same Manning who has restructured deals to help free salary cap space on multiple occasions, the same Manning who refused to get into wars of words with the likes of Tiki Barber and Victor Cruz following their departures from the Giants and the same guy who publicly went to bat for the same head coach who benched him.

Such an unselfish nature makes for a consummate mentor in any profession, but Manning is more than an example of how to lead the right ways on and off the field. He isn’t Superman. He isn’t Tom Brady, regarded by many as the greatest to ever play the position. He isn’t Aaron Rodgers, a signal-caller who, when fully healthy, is the league’s most-natural quarterback. He isn’t a tank as are Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger and Jameis Winston. His flaws are apparent to all who have watched him, and he’s been the first to admit them when they’ve cost him during games.

Manning has engineered game-winning and title-winning drives, and he’s been booed off his home field. He’s been praised and crushed by the New York press. Name a starting quarterback in the NFL today who has survived and thrived throughout a more roller-coaster tenure over the past decade and a half. Who better to teach a young hoped-to-be replacement and face of the franchise who has never before encountered playing in the country’s top pro sports market?

Next: NFL Mock Draft 2018: Two rounds with massive trades

Manning’s best playing days are likely behind him. That’s okay. What he does behind the scenes when cameras aren’t on and fans aren’t watching at MetLife Stadium may make 2018 his most important year for the Giants since 2011. Whoever is second and third on the depth chart should feel lucky and honored they get to learn from the best quarterback in the history of an organization that has existed for over 90 years.