“Yes,” Mara said when asked in an interview with the New York Daily News if he wanted Manning to return next season. “But that’s a discussion that we’ll have.”
Manning became the Giants’ starter midway through the 2004 season, taking over from Kurt Warner. If the Giants select a quarterback in the draft, No. 10 would be a great mentor to have.
When asked if Manning could be like Warner and step into a mentor role, Mara said, “He can be Eli Manning for us.”
This about face from Mara is a far cry from where ownership stood just three weeks ago. Mara supported benching Manning for Geno Smith, snapping his consecutive regular season game starting streak at 210.
Mara said he believes Manning still has something left in the tank. He was asked if he thought the Giants’ all-time leader in receptions, passing yards, and touchdowns could still play at a high level.
“I’m concerned about our team,” Mara said. “We think he can still play. We obviously have to get better around him.”
The Giants are coming up on the end of one of the worst seasons in franchise history. They have the worst record in the NFC at 2-11. Head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were fired last week.
The leading candidate to succeed Reese as general manager is former Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman. Gettleman, who was the Giants’ director of player personnel from 1999-2011, was fired by the Panthers in July after a conflict with owner Jerry Richardson.
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Mara would prefer to have a general manager before the end of the regular season but wouldn’t rule out interviewing candidates who still in NFL front offices. He plans to work with the new GM on hiring a head coach. This will mark the first time in 38 years that the Giants will hire a new general manager and head coach in the same year. In 1979, the Giants selected George Young as the team’s first official general manager and Ray Perkins was brought in as head coach.
Young and Perkins selected Morehead State’s Phil Simms with the seventh overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft. The new general manager and head coach will more than likely look to take a quarterback as well. The Giants currently have the second overall pick, which would be their highest pick since drafting Lawrence Taylor out of the University of North Carolina in 1981, if the season were to end today.
The two top quarterback prospects both currently play their college ball in the Golden State: USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen. Darnold still has two years of eligibility remaining while Rosen has one. All signs are pointing to Rosen turning pro while Darnold’s status is unknown.
Mara said he was impressed by what he saw of Darnold and Rosen. When asked which player he prefers, he delivered a politically correct answer.
“We’re going to take the best player available,” Mara said. “If it’s a quarterback, it’s a quarterback. If it’s somebody else, it’s somebody else. I have no idea how the new general manager is going to feel about that. If the new general manager doesn’t love the quarterbacks, I’m not going to say, “No, we’re taking a quarterback,” because the worst thing you can do is force it and then you take the wrong guy.”