Since 2004, Manning has started 211 consecutive games, including playoffs. So for most of Reese’s tenure, quarterback queries prior to the draft amounted to little more than wasted breath.
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But Manning is 36 now, and preparing for his 14th season. While Reese and the Giants firmly believe Manning can continue to play consistently well, they are aware they must think about a successor at some point. With the 2017 NFL Draft set to kick off a week from today, the Giants’ potential quarterback of the future – whoever he may be – has entered the conversation, however reservedly.
Reese certainly sounded no alarms at his news conference today in the auditorium of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, particularly when asked if he looked at quarterback prospects differently this year than he has in the past.
“Not really,” Reese said. “We evaluate everybody the same every year, regardless of what we are looking for and what we think we need, and where we think the depth should come from. We are giving everybody a fair assessment as we go through all the players, and we grade everyone the same, whether you are from a big school, a small school, if you are short or if you are tall, it doesn’t matter. We give everyone the same degree of consideration.”
But responding to the next question, Reese conceded he has paid a bit more attention to the position this year.
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Reese refrains from commenting on specific draft-eligible players, so he did not discuss any of the quarterbacks who will be chosen next week. The top players at the position are generally considered to be Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.
After their 11-5 season in 2016, the Giants choose 23rd in the first round. Reese gave one of his standard answers when asked if he would rule out taking a quarterback in the first round. “We will keep all of our options open,” he said.
The Giants last drafted a quarterback in 2013, when they selected Ryan Nassib on the fourth round. Reese admitted the Giants hoped Nassib would play little or not at all, because if he did it would likely be the result of a Manning injury. Nassib threw just 10 passes in four years, and was not re-signed as a free agent this offseason.
If they select a quarterback next week, the process starts over again, though perhaps with a little more urgency because of Manning’s age.
“If you draft a quarterback in the first or second round, if Eli gets hurt and we don’t have a quarterback that is ready to go and you have a quarterback on the roster, you have to get them ready to play,” Reese said. “That is the coaches’ job to do that, it is our job to have somebody waiting in the wings to play, so you just never know. We think that Eli has some good years left to play for us, and we are trying to put good people around him as well and hopefully the offense can pick up the pace more than last year.”
“That is what you say every year,” Reese said. “It is hard to bring guys right out of college and to play up here is such a different game. The college game is a lot different now, so it is hard for guys to just jump in and play up here right away. We have seen guys do it, but I think you have to limit what they do and you can’t give them everything at the beginning.”
It’s also possible the Giants don’t have to look to the draft for a short or long-term successor to Manning. On March 20, they signed Geno Smith, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Jets and has started 30 NFL games.
“Geno is on the roster, and is going to have a fair share to compete just like everyone else,” Reese said. “He is excited about being here, and we are excited to have him. He is going to come in and compete just like everybody else, so we will see where that goes.”
And next week, we will see if the Giants use one of their draft choices to secure a quarterback.