The benching of Eli Manning felt like the beginning of the end of an era.
Then again, maybe it wasn't.
"I don't think you should be writing his obituary just yet," Giants co-owner John Mara said on Wednesday. "A lot of things can change between now and next spring and next season. We obviously have some tough decisions to make at the end of the year and who knows what's going to happen?"
That is a fair point, especially since Manning -- the Giants' now-former franchise quarterback -- is still under contract through the next two seasons. Technically he can't go anywhere unless the Giants let him -- or unless he retires -- though the Giants almost certainly would try to accommodate him if he decides he wants out.
Whether he will or not remains to be seen. Several people close to Manning told SNY on Tuesday that they believed the 36-year-old quarterback would be willing to waive his no-trade clause in the offseason if the Giants didn't want him back as a starter and they were willing to ship him somewhere so he could play. But those sources also insisted it was really too early in a process and the emotions are still too raw for anyone to know for sure.
Mara said he had a "very emotional" meeting with Manning on Wednesday to discuss his situation. The co-owner said Manning did not discuss any desire to play elsewhere, nor did he volunteer to waive the no-trade clause he insisted on getting in his current four-year, $84 million deal.
"We didn't discuss that," Mara said. "We don't know what's going to happen at the end of the season or next year."
It's true there are many variables in play -- perhaps most notably the fact that Giants head coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese could end up being fired at the end of this miserable season. Those two have seemed to be the driving force behind the push to the post-Manning Era. It's entirely possible a new GM and coach come in and decide Manning as the starter again gives them their best chance to win.
The Giants also wouldn't be willing to completely move on from Manning without having a concrete succession plan in place. That means there could be a lot riding on the play of Geno Smith and rookie Davis Webb the next five weeks -- mostly Webb. It also could depend on how high the Giants pick in the 2018 draft and whether there is a franchise-caliber quarterback available to take.
After that, it would be all up to Manning. He could ask for his release -- not impossible considering the move would actually clear about $16 million in cap room for the Giants -- or agree to a trade. Or maybe he'd be willing to stay and mentor a young quarterback if the Giants were willing to commit to letting him start at least as long as the Giants are alive in the playoff chase.
But if he does decide he wants to continue his career elsewhere, would the Giants be willing to let him go the way they were with incumbent starter Kerry Collins right after the Giants drafted Manning back in 2004?
"I don't want to speculate on that," Mara said. "I have so much respect for him that obviously I would take that into consideration but that's a conversation for another day."
One way or another, though, despite what's happening right now with the Giants, Mara doesn't believe Manning's career is over. He still believes the player who is perhaps the greatest quarterback in Giants history can still play at a high-enough level in the league.
"I think he can still win in the NFL, yes," Mara said. "I hope it's here. But that'll be a discussion for the offseason."