EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning isn't ready to give in to the angry mob that has declared his career over. He took a beating on Thursday night, played a terrible game and watched another season slip away before Halloween, but he still knows what he's capable of doing. He's not budging on that at all.
"My confidence in myself is good," Manning said after the Giants' 34-13 loss to the Eagles. "I know I can play."
He's right. He can still play. He can still be a good quarterback.
But that just doesn't matter anymore.
No matter what the 37-year-old Manning may have left in the tank, the Giants have now backed themselves into a corner where they have to do what they tried to do late last season -- and what many thought they should have done in the draft. They have to start preparing to move on from their franchise icon. Not immediately. But sooner than later -- and sooner than they hoped.
That was always the danger of their plan to go all-in on Manning this year with a belief that they could still make a postseason run in his final two seasons. That obviously didn't work. And regardless of who is to blame, the Giants are now 1-5, and barring a miracle, this season is over. One look at their hideous play on Thursday night and it's clear they shouldn't count on a Super Bowl run next season either.
They are a rebuilding team with an aging quarterback who has only two years left on his contract. Maybe he can still play. Maybe he could be really good in the right situation. But the Giants are clearly not the right situation. They're such a disaster now that only one question matters anymore:
Unfortunately for them, there is no good answer right now. The quarterback the old regime thought was the heir apparent, Davis Webb, is now on the Jets' practice squad after he was cut at the end of training camp. And since Alex Tanney, a 30-year-old journeyman, isn't a contender for that title, that leaves Kyle Lauletta, the fourth-round pick out of tiny Richmond who is still getting third-string reps in practice and has yet to be activated for an NFL game.
Maybe Lauletta can be the Quarterback of the Future someday, but nobody could possibly argue he's ready now. Perhaps the Giants can begin the process of getting him ready by first moving him ahead of Tanney on the depth chart and giving him a few more reps in practice. But it's still a big jump from Richmond to the NFC East. There's no guarantee Lauletta will be ready this season at all.
Even if he was, would it really be a good idea to put a rookie quarterback on the field with this team? Manning wasn't good against the Eagles, but he is still, by far, the Giants' best option to win games. He still managed to only throw one interception against Philly and to throw for 281 yards. And he did it despite being pummeled, as usual, behind his offensive line that got him hit 13 times and sacked four times. No wonder he keeps checking down. At least he's smart enough to do that.
How would a 22-year-old out of Richmond handle that?
Probably not well, which is why the Giants are stuck. That was the fear, of course, when they passed on Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen in the draft and instead went with Saquon Barkley. Barkley is a spectacular player. He had 229 total yards on Thursday and came within a receiving yard of being the first player in Giants history with 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game. Without him in this game, their offense wouldn't have existed at all.
But he doesn't solve their quarterback dilemma, and now the Giants need to figure out a plan because by the time they're ready to win again, Manning will almost certainly be gone. So obviously they need to start prepping Lauletta. And if they learned anything from the ridiculous way they handled their quarterback situation last year, it should be that they have to give him a shot at some point. They can't go through another lost season without at least taking a look at the young quarterback they have.
At the same time, they also have to really look at their options, whether it's in the 2019 draft (since they sure look like they'll have another high pick) or free agency (though they probably won't have the cap room to afford a top-tier option like Teddy Bridgewater). They have to figure out their next move, because nothing else matters. This season doesn't matter. Next season may not matter either.
But the future does. So they need to figure out a succession plan and begin building the bridge from Manning to whomever comes next.
Sadly, that's what this season has been reduced to: a pothole on the path to the next generation, and yet another wasted year in the career of the best quarterback this franchise ever had. The Giants gave it a shot. They went all-in on Manning, and all-in on their present, banking on one last run.
But it didn't happen. So it's time to start thinking about the future now.