EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Coach Pat Shurmur today declined to say whether 16-year veteran Eli Manning or rookie Daniel Jones will start at quarterback in Tampa on Sunday.
“Obviously, Eli’s been our starter to this point,” Shurmur said at his Monday post-game news conference. “I’m not really ready to get into any of those conversations about any position.
“We’re going to talk about everything we’re doing moving forward. That’s fair at this point. We’re 0-2. There are areas where we have to get better. We’re going to address all areas and try to find ways to put a winning performance on the field.”
Asked point-blank, “Is Eli your starting quarterback this week,” Shurmur demurred.
“He’s been our starter to this point,” Shurmur said. “I don’t want to talk about anything else moving forward from that standpoint. Not ready to discuss that.”
After fielding several more subjects, Shurmur was asked another quarterbacks question and said, “I don’t want to be dishonest with anyone. Like I said, we’re evaluating everything moving forward, and I’m not ready to talk about all that right now.”
Manning has started all but one of the Giants’ last 233 regular-season games – plus 12 postseason games – dating back to his rookie season in 2004. Manning said Shurmur and he “have not discussed” a potential change at quarterback. “It’s business as usual,” he said. “I have to get ready to play a game, nothing changes. Get ready for Tampa and figure out a way to get a win.”
Jones became Manning’s heir apparent when he was selected sixth overall in the NFL Draft.
“We are 0-2 and we are looking for answers, I get it,” Manning said. “When you draft a guy early and you’re not winning games, these are going to come up. I just have to keep working and do what my job is.”
Manning started the season’s first two games, a 35-17 loss in Dallas on Kickoff Weekend and a 28-14 defeat to the Buffalo Bills yesterday in MetLife Stadium. The Giants have moved the ball well at times – the offense is averaging a healthy 420.0 yards per game, a 64-yard increase over last year – but have been unable to convert that production into points.
In two games, the Giants have scored four touchdowns – only one after their opening possession each week. They have converted just five of 23 third-down opportunities.
“We’re looking at everything that we can do to get better,” Shurmur said. “That’s really what we do every week. To this point, what we’ve done hasn’t been good enough.”
Manning has completed 56 of 89 passes for 556 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions (both against the Bills) for a passer rating of 78.7. He has been able to throw only seven of those 89 passes to his two best wide receivers. Golden Tate, a key offseason acquisition, has yet to play because he is serving a four-game NFL suspension. Sterling Shepard, who caught six passes against the Cowboys, missed the game yesterday because he is in the NFL concussion protocol.
“There is always room for improvement,” Manning said. “I feel like I’m not missing, maybe I missed one throw to Evan (Engram) yesterday. Obviously, we have to figure out a way to score more points and do better on third downs. Figure out a way to get completions and convert on those third downs.”
Since the spring, Shurmur has said repeatedly that when it was Jones’ time to play, he would be ready. Jones was outstanding in the preseason, when he completed 29 of 34 passes (85.3%) for 416 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a glittering 137.2 rating. But he played primarily against backup players and coaches who were not game-planning to stop him. A regular-season start would present a new set of challenges.
“I think anybody that we put in there, we put in there with the idea that they’re ready to go,” Shurmur said.
One element the 22-year-old Jones would add to the offense is the ability to run. The Giants saw that yesterday when quarterback Josh Allen scored Buffalo’s first touchdown on a six-yard run around right end.
“He has a much better skill set to do those types of things than say Eli,” Shurmur said in response to a question about Jones. “Yes, that’s fair.
“I think when you do that, and you have a quarterback that can do those things,” Shurmur said, “I think that’s smart, I think that’s utilizing the talents of the player that you’re working with.”
The Giants begin practicing for the game against the Buccaneers on Wednesday, and the head coach said any personnel decisions will be made by then.
“We’re always trying to do what we can to win this next game,” Shurmur said, “and then behind the scenes, we’re always having those long-term discussions. But I think that’s the challenge each week - just doing what you can to win the next game. That’s really my focus as the coach, and certainly that’s what the players’ focus is.”
“The motivation is to win, there’s nothing more than that,” Manning said. “You want to win, that’s why you work hard, that’s why you train, that’s why you do everything and prepare in practice, so you can go out there and win football games and build something special. Nothing changes.”
*Shurmur said Shepard is improving.
“He’s going through the steps, it appears like, in time to make it for this game,” Shurmur said. “But again, they’re all different, the concussion things are different. Once you’re in the protocol, there’s a set standard that we follow, and obviously player safety is important. We don’t want to bring a guy back too soon.”
Another wideout, Cody Latimer, suffered a concussion yesterday.
Rookie receiver Darius Slayton, who missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, “(will) be out there practicing this week, so we’ll see how much closer (he is),” Shurmur.
Guard Kevin Zeitler “has a shoulder that he’s been dealing with,” according to Shurmur.