EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants' season is over. Their quarterback is 36 years old. They have a young quarterback on their roster who might just be the future of their franchise. And if he's not, they're staring at a high pick in a quarterback-rich draft next year.
So in theory, it makes sense. Why wouldn't they take a good, long look at rookie quarterback Davis Webb? Eli Manning isn't their long-term future, but Webb might be. It would seem logical to see what he can do before deciding whether to draft a quarterback next year.
But the Giants shouldn't do it. And they likely won't.
Despite cries for a youth movement from the 0-5-and-sinking Giants, the reality is that Manning is likely to start every game this season, as long as he's healthy (which granted, given the state of the Giants' offensive line, could be a short-term thing). And that's absolutely the way it should be. It's not in deference to Manning either, or to his streak of consecutive starts -- which stands at a remarkable 204. It's because it's the best thing for the Giants.
And maybe for Webb, too.
First of all, this is still Manning's team, for better or for worse. He's signed for another two seasons, and there is no indication -- none -- that the franchise is ready to move on to whatever comes next. No, he's not the same player he once was. But he's also getting battered (and often rushed) behind a terrible line, and was plagued by drop-happy receivers (before they all got hurt) while running a predictable, unimaginative offense.
If he's going to be the starter in 2018, what good would come from benching him for any part of this season? It seems unlikely that after 22 games with Ben McAdoo doubling as the head coach and play-caller that Manning would suddenly find his rhythm with what is now the worst receiving corps he's ever had. But who knows? Maybe down the stretch he finds a connection with Roger Lewis or Travis Rudolph. Maybe one of them becomes a key part of the offense next year.
Even if they don't, there's no doubt that all the players left on this MASH-unit of a roster would benefit from having a veteran quarterback at the helm of this sinking ship. He's got a rookie tight end (Evan Engram), maybe a rookie running back (Wayne Gallman), and a second-year receiver (Sterling Shepard, when he's healthy) as the centerpieces of his offense now, and he has to operate with limited personnel-group options behind a crumbling offensive line.
Manning can provide stability. He can check to the right plays, point players in the right direction, show the poise and ability to make a play out of a mess -- essentially the same things that 38-year-old Josh McCown is doing with the young Jets. McCown isn't the Jets future either -- probably not even in the short term. Despite their 3-2 record, they'd still have every reason to play second-year pro Christian Hackenberg just to take a look. But they won't, because they know that if they did, things really would be a chaotic mess.
The same would almost certainly happen with Webb, the Giants' third-round pick. If you think Manning is having problems in this mess of an offense, why would you think Webb would be better? He's still learning the playbook. He's still learning how to be an NFL player. And given that NFL teams spent two rounds passing him by in the draft, the jury is really still out on his potential. Plus, he's gotten incredibly limited practice time as the Giants' third-string quarterback.
None of that sounds like a recipe for success.
And even if Webb was ready, why would the Giants put him in a situation like that? Most young quarterbacks struggle at the start of their careers. What's the benefit of putting him behind the same bad line that battered Manning, with maybe Lewis and Rudolph as his top receivers? That would give Webb no chance for any kind of success.
Sure, ideally, they'd want to see him before deciding on whether to draft a quarterback next season. But if they're sold on one of those 2018 quarterbacks, they should draft one anyway. Webb's a third-rounder, and that matters. It's not like they would have wasted a first- or second-round pick if they go in another direction. It's not like the Jets' situation, where they used a second-round pick on Hackenberg and two years later still haven't seen him in a game.
So the Giants don't need to see Webb to decide what to do next April. Giants coach Ben McAdoo said the Giants "don't shy away from playing young players," but they definitely should shy away from playing Webb. The reality is that Manning is their starter for at least another year, maybe two. Let him figure out this mess. Let him steady the young players around him as this lost season likely gets worse.
Let Manning play, because he remains, by far, the Giants' best option. And even if the rest of this season is about the future, the immediate future still includes him.