EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Jerry Reese spent his Saturday night in Los Angeles searching for the Giants' quarterback of the future. And it likely won't be the last time the Giants GM watches some 2018 quarterback prospects up close.
But whether he likes USC's Sam Darnold or UCLA's Josh Rosen best, or whether the Giants are even in position to draft either one of them in April, the odds still remain strong that Eli Manning will be the opening day starter next season. That's barring injury, of course.
It's also not a complete guarantee, given the Giants' suddenly dire circumstances and uncertain future.
So here's a look at the candidates and their odds to be the Giants' starting quarterback next year...
Inside the organization there is no doubt that he will finish out this year as the starter and be on schedule to make his 216th consecutive start on Opening Day, 2018. No one's worried about his health, nor are they worried about a challenge from inside from the likes of Geno Smith and Davis Webb. The one tiny sliver of doubt -- and it's tiny -- is that if this season gets worse (like 2-14 and a string of blowouts worse) and a new GM-coach tandem is brought in, the organization could decide to just start over. Conceivably, with a Darnold or Rosen in their hands, they could give Manning the courtesy they gave Kerry Collins in 2004 -- a chance to go elsewhere, rather than stick around and groom his replacement. It's unlikely, but not unprecedented. It also would require Manning to waive his no-trade clause, something people close to him insist he's adamant about not doing, no matter what. Odds he's the 2018 starter: 1-1
He's listed above Darnold only because he's considered by many scouts to be the most pro-ready -- assuming he can get a handle on his maturity issues -- and he's also likely to be drafted after Darnold, which makes him slightly more likely to land in the Giants' lap. At this point, if Darnold comes out, almost everyone expects he'll be the No. 1 pick. And with the Cleveland Browns on the fast track to 0-16, would they pass on a top QB again? Well, they are the Browns, so maybe. But most likely the Giants would end up with Rosen if they end up drafting second or third. And it's tough to draft a QB in the top three and make him sit out an entire year. Odds he's the 2018 starter: 40-1
There are a lot of questions around him, including whether he'll come out and how anyone other the Browns could possibly end up with him on Draft Day. That pushes him into the unlikely category. But if the Giants are up near the top of the Draft and they decide Darnold is the best prospect, they could be aggressive to go up and get him like they were with Manning in 2004. And the Moneyball Browns, assuming their front office isn't fired, could be receptive to a package of draft picks. That's a lot of Ifs, but if the Giants can get Darnold, just like if they land Rosen, it will be hard to sit him, and they might give Manning the choice outlined above. Odds he's the 2018 starter: 65-1
The Giants didn't bring him in this season for no reason at all. They liked his talent and mobility and they recognize that as a former starter who just turned 27 he still could have his best years ahead of him. But as a replacement for Manning? Probably not. But, what happens if the Giants end up with Rosen or Darnold and Manning decides he doesn't want to stick around and be their mentor? Smith could be the bridge guy, like Kurt Warner was in 2004. It would be short-term, until Rosen or Darnold is ready. But that might make more sense than Manning sticking around just to keep a rookie's seat warm. Odds he's the 2018 starter: 99-1
As of right now, according to multiple team sources, there are no plans to play Webb the rest of the way. But things can always change, especially if the Giants melt down over the last six games. Even then, the Giants are likely to stick with Manning, but it is possible that at some point Webb will be elevated to No. 2 on the depth chart and get thrown in to the second half of some games. What happens if the offense starts to thrive under his direction? Again, that seems farfetched. That's why it's slightly easier to see the above scenario where Smith is the starter instead. But if it happens, the Giants could have a decision to make. Odds he's the 2018 starter: 100-1
JOSH ALLEN, LAMAR JACKSON, BAKER MAYFIELD, et. al.
The rest of the field of 2018 prospects is filled with question marks, and in general they all seem to rank a few notches below the Darnold-Rosen duo. That makes them extreme longshots for the Giants. Yes, if the Giants fall out of the Darnold-Rosen range in the Draft, they could fall in love with one of these QBs and draft him in the first round. But they would likely be more inclined to let them sit a full year behind Manning and punt the QB decision to 2019, when Manning is in the final year of his deal. It's also possible they look at this group and decide they like Webb enough to stick with him. The prospect of them drafting Darnold and Rosen is based on the idea that they wouldn't pass on a truly special franchise QB -- and most believe Darnold and Rosen fit that bill. Do the others? The general feeling is no. But that will be up to the Giants -- and whoever is running their draft room -- to decide. Odds one of them is the 2018 starter: 500-1