In 2017, the New York Giants suffered through one of the worst seasons in franchise history: a 3-13 nightmare that witnessed the very-seldom firing of a head coach and general manager during the season.
It was one of the worst seasons for quarterback Eli Manning. He threw 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was benched in Week 12, ending his second-longest consecutive regular season starts streak by a quarterback in NFL history at 210. Manning often looked like a deer in headlights as what was left of the Giants’ offense scored the fewest points in the NFC.
No one would have blamed head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman if they wanted to move on from Manning. He’s 37 years old and the team is coming off a season in which they set a franchise record for losses. The Quarterback Class of 2018 drew comparisons to the Classes of 1983 and 2004 (of which Manning is a member). Three quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen) were selected in the top-10.
The Giants held the No. 2 overall pick. Conventional wisdom suggested they would select Manning’s successor but instead of drafting a quarterback, the team selected running back Saquon Barkley.
The significance of that pick was not lost on Manning.
“Well, yeah,” Manning said after Tuesday’s first session of a mandatory three-day minicamp. “Drafting a running back showed that they think I can perform at a high level and lead this team and be a successful quarterback in this league.”
Shurmur said he’s always been impressed by Manning’s arm and conditioning, calling him the fittest 37-year-old quarterback he’s ever seen.
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“I don’t know,” Shurmur said. “I was expecting to see a guy that was a two-time Super Bowl winner, and so I guess—I’m always surprised at how smart he is and at how things, I don’t want to say come easy to him because he studies, but he has a great feel for the game.
“And that great feel for the game is backed up by a heck of a lot of work, and so when you have that combination, a guy that can really see the game and then a guy that really works at it, then I think the sky is the limit.”
Barkley used the same “the sky is the limit” phrase when describing the Giants’ offensive potential.
The offensive line has been revamped and will be better than it has been in years past. Odell Beckham Jr. was cleared to practice Tuesday and is on his way to coming back from a season-ending broken ankle. The Giants also have Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram as targets for Manning. Add Barkley, who has been described as a generational talent and the one can’t miss prospect in this year’s draft, and the Giants have reasons for optimism heading into 2018.
“It can be a special year; every year can be a special year,” Manning said. “It’s just a matter of how guys play on Sunday, how they deal. There’s always gonna be ups and downs through the season. It’s just—can guys keep it about the team, and keep it together, and stay committed for 16 weeks, 17 weeks, and then going in the playoffs?
“So, I think it’s a good crew of guys; and now it’s just how hard can we work? How committed can we be? And putting this all together and finding ways to win together.”