EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Time is running out on the Eli Manning Era, whether Pat Shurmur wants to talk about it or not. Pretty soon there will be nothing to play for in this lost season. The Giants, very clearly, are a mess.
Ironically, that might be the truth that sets Manning free to extend his Giants career a little longer. Because why in the world would the Giants want to throw a rookie quarterback into the middle of this?
Seriously, at this point, that's the best argument for keeping Daniel Jones, the Giants' future franchise quarterback, on the sidelines as this already miserable season unravels. For all who hope that he would be a better option than a 38-year-old Manning, the reality is that he's still a 22-year-old kid who is learning on the job. That's not always the easiest thing to do in the best of circumstances.
And in this case, look around. It's not like he's going to have any help.
Seriously, what's the point of throwing him in the mix with a receiving corps that is filled with fourth receivers? Manning, for all his faults -- real and perceived -- should have had a much better day than his numbers showed in the 28-14 loss to the Bills on Sunday. He had three first half drives short-circuited when his receivers couldn't deliver on third down. Twice it was because of drops by Bennie Fowler. Once it was because Cody Latimer couldn't complete his route. At least two of those looked like they could have been -- should have been -- scoring drives.
But that's what happens when a team trades Odell Beckham, loses Golden Tate to a suspension and Sterling Shepard to a concussion. The receivers that are left behind -- minus Latimer, by the way, who now has a concussion too -- aren't magically going to get better just because Jones is the one throwing them the ball.
That's the reality. And it's not helped by the fact that tight end Evan Engram, who is supposed to be a receiving threat, put on a remarkable disappearing act on Sunday afternoon. And while Shurmur did remember to hand the ball to Saquon Barkley in this game, he still hasn't integrated his superstar into the passing game the way he did last year.
So all of that would be working against Jones, and that's before even getting to the defense -- which, quite simply, has been an absolute disaster. Twice in two games they've put the Giants in deep first half holes. Jones is still learning about the nuances of playing in the NFL, of reading complicated defenses and calling out the right protections and audibles. It's hard enough to do that with a lead. It's ridiculous to put that on a rookie when he's being forced to play from two touchdowns behind.
Eventually, the Giants might have no choice. And that might be soon. If 0-2 becomes 0-5, or if they realize the playoffs are a fantasy by the midpoint of the season, they won't be able to justify playing Manning anymore. Even though, with a rookie quarterback, things can still get worse -- much worse -- they might be willing to endure that for the sake of Jones' long-term development, in the hopes that he's just a little more ready when he takes over from the start next year.
But until the Giants clean up this mess, and get some healthy or suspended bodies back at receiver, they really risk damaging Jones more than they help him. If the situation is going to be this bad around him, shouldn't they wait until he's spent a few more weeks watching Manning prepare and handle the struggles? Shouldn't they let him get used to getting ready on his own, study NFL game film? Then he might be in better position to handle the mess that awaits.
But when Shurmur said, "I don't think that's a conversation for right now," he's right. For now, the conversation is still about Manning, and whether he can help the Giants salvage anything out of this season. It seems unrealistic, based on what everyone has seen during the first two weeks. It seems laughable that they ever thought they could make a playoff run. But that's where they are. They don't have much of a choice, but to endure a few more weeks and see where Manning can lead them.
After that, they will have to have that difficult conversation, and consider what might be a very painful switch.