PHOENIX – Eli Manning will be the Giants' starting quarterback for a 16th season in 2019. But anyone with even a passing interest in the team knows the real intrigue at the position is who will succeed him and when.
Coach Pat Shurmur stayed largely on the fringes of that discussion when he spoke to reporters this morning at the NFL annual meeting here. His focus is on fielding the best team this year rather than projecting what might happen in 2020 or beyond. And while the Giants do own the sixth and 17th selections in next month's NFL Draft, they also have several positions they hope to fortify.
"We have options," Shurmur said. "We have some good picks and we have things we need to do to make our roster better. I think we all understand Eli is closer to 40 than 20. At some point, there will be a new quarterback playing for the Giants. We will just have to see what happens."
Given that Manning is 38 and no obvious heir apparent is on the roster, why don't the Giants have more urgency to find their next quarterback?
"There is an urgency to get better at all positions," Shurmur said. "There are quarterbacks at other teams playing at the age that Eli is. The important thing for us is to make our team better. Have Eli play as good as he can. The draft and free agency drive where we make those changes. That is how we look at it.
"We are getting ready to play this season and make our roster as good as we can make it. Along with that, we all know that at some point there will be another quarterback playing. We will do the best we can to make the quarterback position the best it can be. … If we are winning games, we are not disrupting anything."
Manning is entering the final year of his contract, which Shurmur considers a complete non-issue.
"Eli is all in," he said. "Part of his charm is that he can stay in the moment. If it is Monday and we play Dallas on Sunday, he does Monday things. You would have to ask him, but my sense is that he can stay in the moment."
Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins and Oklahoma's Kyler Murray are widely considered the best quarterbacks in this year's draft. Haskins is a 6-3 pocket passer, while Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, is a shade under 5-11 and more mobile. Questions have been raised about Haskins' mobility and Murray's ability to succeed at his height, but Shurmur is unconcerned. Asked if Haskins moves well enough in the pocket, he said, "absolutely." Regarding Murray, Shurmur said, "Quarterbacks come in all sizes. As we watch more and more of them, we see the game evolve. It is not as big an issue."
Shurmur was asked if it is important that the next quarterback have a relationship with Manning.
"I certainly believe that Eli does everything the right way behind the scenes," Shurmur said. "I believe that a young QB could value that just by seeing it. That is part of Eli's charm. How well he works and how well he prepares. How professional he is with doing his job. Any professional from any profession would value from seeing that. If we add a new player, it is not Eli's job to train him. It is Eli's job to be the best Eli he can be. It is the player's job to recognize that it is a great example and take advantage of it.
"The important thing is Eli be the best Eli he can be. Play outstanding, winning football and don't worry about that. Quarterbacks learn from each other and if we bring in the right guy, he is going to study Eli and learn a great deal just being around him. We have coaches to coach the players. Eli's responsibility is to play winning football. I have been around him and I see the way he works. If a young player wants to study and learn, he will learn a lot. A guy that has done all the things that Eli has done, if we draft a quarterback and he becomes the future, being around Eli will only help him."
Will Shurmur "bang the table" for a quarterback when the Giants are on the clock in the draft?
"No one is banging the table about anything," he said. "We know what our needs are. We still want to look at the board and when you are presented with a pick, you want the best player on the board at that time. If they do fill a need, then that is ideal."
The Giants have several immediate issues to address in this draft. One seemingly is for pass rushers. The Giants finished the 2018 season tied for 30th in the league with 30 sacks (though the team they tied with, New England, won the Super Bowl). Their top returning player in that statistical category is second-year defensive tackle B.J. Hill, who had 5.5 – including 3.0 in one game.
"Pass rush is something that we all want," Shurmur said. "We all want guys that can affect the quarterback. Being an offensive coach, I know how difficult it is for the quarterback to function when he is being rushed. We need to get someone who can affect the quarterback.
"There are a lot of them (pass rushers). Certainly, the top tier guys that everyone is predicting to go, I still watch my son (Kyle, who played at Vanderbilt) get sacked by all the SEC pass rushers. I have seen it firsthand."
Shurmur discussed numerous other subjects during his long conversation with reporters:
*On whether Saquon Barkley's 352 touches (carries and receptions) is the "high end" for him.
"It is hard to say," Shurmur said. "We don't track that. It is a good thing when he touches the ball. I do think the ball needs to be spread around. In games where you look at the final stat sheet and see six or seven guys touched the ball, I think that is the way you want to play offense."
*On whether he will build the offense around Barkley.
"I don't look at it that way," Shurmur said. "We have an outstanding running back that is going to get his touches. We are going to build an offense to score more points.
"(The next step for him is to) have a good offseason and build on what he did a year ago. Not try and be someone different. He will lead if he becomes the best player he can become."
*On whether the offense can improve without Odell Beckham, Jr.
"I think when you play offense, you try and get the most out of the players you have," Shurmur said. "You have to use their skillsets. I do believe that it takes a village to spread the ball around. The quarterback gets the ball out. We have a lot of fine players on offense. We will spread the ball. Unfortunately, Odell was hurt at the back end of the season and we were able to score our most points of the year. We will find a way."
*On tight end Evan Engram, who missed five games with injuries but caught 19 passes in the season's final three games.
"When he got healthier, he was able to produce in a way we think he can," Shurmur said. "He had production when he was in there, but then he got hurt a few times. By the end, he was feeling good, running well and playing well. That is a function of Evan doing his thing. … He can block. I think he can block better than you do. I think his whole game improved when he became healthy. He is a willing blocker."
*On whether cornerback Sam Beal, chosen in the third round of the supplemental draft last year, has a chance to start this year. Beal spent the season on injured reserve after undergoing shoulder surgery.
"We feel like he has those skills. He is doing a really good job coming back from that shoulder surgery. He had an excellent fall in getting himself ready to go."