Eli Manning as the starting quarterback. A draft pick such as Dwayne Haskins waiting in the wings as the backup, absorbing as much as he can from the veteran, waiting to take over in 2020.
Think Patrick Mahomes, sitting one season behind Alex Smith in Kansas City, before moving in.
More and more, this appears to be the scenario about to unfold for the Giants. It is far too early in the evaluation process to state the Giants are sold on Haskins, considering they haven’t yet studied him closely. They have yet to see him at the combine in Indianapolis or at his pro day at Ohio State, have yet to get him in a room for a personal interview.
If the determination is made Haskins has enough of an upside to be viewed as an heir apparent, the Giants will have no reservation, as far as starting the clock on the end of Manning’s reign.
Nearly a month after the Giants finished off a 5-11 season — their fifth losing season in the past six years — general manager Dave Gettleman, head coach Pat Shurmur, the coaching staff and the team scouts returned from a three-day stay at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., another part of the process leading up to the draft in late April. Before that, free agency arrives in mid-March.
Here is how the important football decisions appear to be shaping up for the Giants:
Eli Manning is not expected to go anywhere. It is believed Gettleman and Shurmur are convinced the 38-year-old can function as a more-than-competent NFL quarterback, and they greatly value his professionalism, attention to detail, calm demeanor and ability to process information and relay it to his teammates. Upon detailed film study of the entire season, no alarming signs were uncovered to reveal regression in his physical skills, no category of throws he can no longer make.
This does not mean the Giants hierarchy sees Manning as the same quarterback he was when he was 28. There is a realization he needs more help now, a sturdier offensive line and a strong running game to allow him to use his prowess at the play-action passing game. The presence of Saquon Barkley is huge here, as the Giants believe they have only scratched the surface with a player they are absolutely thrilled they took with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft.
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● The “brutally honest’’ assessment Gettleman promised will not result in parting with Manning, but it will lead to a high-alert effort to find his successor. The Giants realize the 2018 backups, Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta, are not the answer. Manning never has shared the roster with anyone close to a threat to wrest the job away from him. The Giants will try to make sure that changes in 2019.
● The search for the next franchise quarterback will be undertaken in the draft, not free agency. The free-agent field will be underwhelming. Nick Foles is not likely to hit the open market, and even if he did, there are concerns as to just how talented and capable he is to lead a team of his own, rather than thriving as a gifted relief pitcher. As for Teddy Bridgewater, there are those in the league who believe he will never be the same after suffering a devastating knee injury in September 2016.
● It is not exactly Haskins-or-bust, but at this point, very early in the process, it appears the Ohio State redshirt sophomore is the only quarterback in this draft possibly worthy of the No. 6 pick. The Giants have yet to determine if Haskins should be taken that high and will study him relentlessly in the coming weeks, trying to pick apart every aspect of his game and personality. The size and arm strength are there. The production and passing records in the Big Ten are there. Now the Giants need to dig in and get as much information as possible to determine if he is worth a high first-round grade.
● Gettleman has not divulged the details of the “great conversation’’ he had with Manning after the season. It appears as if Manning was told of the plan to bring in a youngster to take his job down the road. No one is asking Manning to be a quarterbacks coach, but the Giants need to know their veteran will embrace the newcomer. By all indications, Manning is fine with that scenario, as he realizes too much losing has gone on and he cannot play forever.
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● If Haskins is indeed deemed worthy of the No. 6 pick, it is too early to tell how far the Giants will extend themselves — as far as trading up, if necessary — to get him. What the Giants will not do is panic and overreach. If one of the other quarterback prospects — Daniel Jones, Drew Lock, Will Grier, Jarrett Stidham, Ryan Finley — is seen as a worthwhile investment in the second round, so be it. It does not appear the Giants see Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma as an option high in the draft, based on his lack of size.
● There are several ways to get a rookie quarterback prepared to play. It seems as if the Giants view the college game as being foreign in many ways to the NFL and that a year of watching and learning is their desired formula. Remember, Mahomes, taken by the Chiefs with the 10th-overall pick in 2017, did not play at all until the final game of his rookie season, as he was given, basically, a red-shirt year learning behind Smith. The Chiefs went 10-6 and won the AFC West with Smith directing the offense, but it was evident he could not stave off Mahomes’ push to the starting job. Ideally, the Giants would love to adopt that blueprint in 2019.
● It is not yet known if Manning will be asked to take a pay cut, but it is believed the Giants are not interested in making this a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum situation. If the team insists on reducing his salary cap number of $23.2 million, there likely will be incentives to allow Manning to recoup some or all of the money.