EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eli Manning is a cool customer regarding one of the hot topics of the Giants’ spring.
Since the team selected quarterback Daniel Jones – the player who will likely one day succeed him – with the sixth overall selection in the NFL Draft last month, Manning’s thoughts on the transaction have been a matter of great conjecture. Does the move put more pressure on him to play well early in the 2019 season, knowing Jones is in the bullpen? Will the 16-year veteran be a willing mentor to the rookie who turns 22 a week from today?
As he always does, Manning today carried himself with a positive vibe when he spoke publicly for the first time since the draft. He responded to reporters’ questions after the Giants’ first organized team activity and made it clear he is looking forward to the season, he is well aware of his situation, and he will willingly help Jones, just as he did the other young quarterbacks that have passed through here.
“I feel like I have always tried hard and worked hard,” Manning said. “I have done everything possible to be in a position to be successful. I don’t think this has changed that. I understand the circumstances that I am in and, sure, I need to play well and play well early. Just do my job. You want to do that. You have to be careful not to press and do too much when things aren’t there and force things. Just have to play to the best of my ability and make good decisions. Lead this team to wins.
“I think there is always an urgency to win. Your job is to go out there and find ways to get that accomplished. Play good football and be a good leader and teammate. I don’t think anything changes.”
Coach Pat Shurmur has bluntly said that is Manning’s first responsibility this year. During the draft, he said Manning “is not here to coach Dan Jones, Eli is here to win football games.”
Today, Shurmur was asked if quarterback is an “open position.”
“I view the quarterback position as we have a starter in Eli and we have guys behind him, specifically Daniel Jones, (who) needs to do everything he can to be able to play week one,” Shurmur said. “That is where we’re at.”
The Giants have two other full-time quarterbacks on their roster, plus rookie free agent Eric Dungey, who is working as a tight end.
“They will all get their work, but Daniel will get the majority of that,” Shurmur said. “He’s just gotta get reps, just like every other player. He will be in there competing with the twos. Sometimes the threes.”
Every year, several NFL teams have the dynamic the Giants are now experiencing. A highly-regarded quarterback is acquired and the man holding the starting job is not ready to surrender it. The issue becomes how much will the veteran help the younger player.
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This is the first time the Giants have selected a quarterback in the first round since trading for Manning 15 years ago. Yes, Jones is the highest-regarded prospect the Giants have had at the game’s most important position since…Manning. But to Manning, this is no different than when the team drafted Davis Webb in 2017 or Lauletta last year.
“No added responsibility,” he said. “The quarterback room is the same no matter who is in it. You are always willing to help and talk football. Teach the guys that are willing to be helped. Every day we are going to sit there and watch film and practice with the coaches and a lot of times just with the quarterbacks before the coaches get in there. You don’t just watch your own reps and go through everyone’s reps. You talk about the decisions and protections that could’ve been done better and what it is like to make decisions. I think it is always everyone helping everyone out in the room.
“I think I have been doing that for the last 11 or 12 years. I don’t know exactly when you become a mentor, but when you’ve been in the league longer than any other guy in the room, you should be a mentor in that sense where you know a little bit more. Again, it is not necessarily your job to do it. You are in the quarterback room with all the other quarterbacks and you are talking, everyone is mentoring everyone. If you aren’t in there, then you can’t be a mentor or mentored. It is a little bit on Daniel to be in there asking questions and everyone willing to help out in those situations.”
Shurmur was asked his thoughts about Manning the mentor.
“There is a lot of conversation with regard to that,” he said. “You have a guy that has played in this league for a very long time and is getting himself ready to play the 2019 season. He has a process that he goes through. We have a new draft pick that is trying to get himself ready to play week one. They are racing to get themselves better. They help each other. That is the way these rooms work if you have a good room.”
Is there any tension in the room?
“Noooo,” Shurmur said. “Not at all. These are pros.
“I think it is a really, really good quarterback room. Two very competitive guys that work well together. Guys are in there just trying to get better with each rep and they help each other, and I feel really good about the interaction that they have had to this point. The way quarterbacks communicate, they are smart guys that are highly competitive and well-accomplished players. They are doing what they can to get ready to play. Eli is getting ready to play winning football and Daniel Jones is trying to learn the offense and get himself ready to play week one, like all the quarterbacks in the room. Because they have a general respect for each other and because that really is a healthy quarterback room, they can improve and get better. I think that is good.”
So does Manning, who will be an invaluable asset to Jones while staying focused on his primary task.
“I understand that I am the quarterback on the Giants and it is my responsibility to go out there and do my job to the best of my ability,” Manning said. “I want to be in this position and be the quarterback. I want to go win games and have a great year.”