EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As soon as the Giants started talking about finding their Quarterback of the Future during the offseason, it was clear the Eli Manning era was not going to end well.
Now it's possible the ugliness is going to begin sooner than anyone imagined.
With the 2017 season already a complete disaster, and clearly heading nowhere after Sunday's humiliating 51-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Giants have a difficult decision to make. They still have eight games left and they are sitting at 1-7, with everything they built crumbling around them. They have to decide if it makes sense to continue to play an aging quarterback when they have their possible Quarterback of the Future sitting on the sidelines.
At some point, they may decide to take a long look at Davis Webb, the quarterback they drafted in the third round as a potential heir apparent to Manning. In fact, head coach Ben McAdoo seemed to open that previously closed door on Sunday afternoon.
But Manning, the pride of the Giants for more than a decade, is not going to go to the sideline willingly.
He made it clear that no matter how bad things get, he wants to play.
"Hey, I want to be out there, I want to be playing," he said. "Yeah, I want to be out there."
However, the decision isn't his.
The decision isn't imminent either, but Manning seemed to grease his skids a little with a mostly terrible performance. In fairness, an abysmal offensive cast that features an offensive line that has struggled for years and receivers who continue to drop plenty of passes surrounds Manning.
But the veteran quarterback also fumbled once, threw an inexplicable pass to a well-covered Roger Lewis that ended up as an interception, overthrew Sterling Shepard on what might have been a long touchdown, overthrew a wide-open Tavarres King in the end zone and then overthrew an open King on the way to the end zone on the very next play.
Manning is a two-time Super Bowl winner who has been a far better quarterback for the Giants than his critics would like to admit. He is still probably in the top half of starting quarterbacks in the NFL by almost any objective ranking. But he knows it's his job to play whatever hand he's dealt, to figure out a way to succeed with whatever the cast is around him.
Instead, in the last three games without Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall (and two without Shepard), he's completed just 53.1 percent of his passes and averaged 160.7 passing yards per game.
Even if it's not all his fault (and it isn't) the Giants may be ready to look at their reality: Manning is 36. He has two years left on his contract and it's hard to imagine the Giants will keep him around longer than that. The organization is already focused on making sure the transition from one franchise quarterback to the next is seamless.
Maybe it'll be Webb. Or perhaps they'll use what should be a high first-round pick on a quarterback in the quarterback-rich draft next year.
But before they make that decision, they might want to see Webb in action, which could mean sitting Manning, who has now started an incredible 207 consecutive games dating all the way back to his rookie year in 2004.
Would they do it? A few weeks ago, McAdoo said he didn't see it getting to that point this season. Then during the bye week, GM Jerry Reese seemed to open the door a little. On Sunday, McAdoo opened it even more.
"You really can't look from my chair too far ahead, but you also have to look at getting some players some reps in the game (later this season)," McAdoo said. "So we'll take a look and see if there's any players that we can give reps to that have a chance to be a part of our future."
Including the quarterback?
"That includes everybody," McAdoo said.
If it does, don't expect Manning to like it.
"Well, they've got to do what they've got to do," he said. "I want to be out there. I want to keep playing with my teammates and keep working."