EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – As it was a little over a year ago when general manager Dave Gettleman held his introductory press conference, the primary topic of Gettleman's 2018 season-in-review presser today was quarterback Eli Manning.
Gettleman said many nice things about Manning, but refused to be painted into a corner on the future of the position for the franchise.
"Eli and I had a very extensive conversation on Monday," Gettleman said at the conclusion of his opening statement. "No holds barred, he took me in the low post and won, but the bottom line is it was a very honest and up-front conversation. I'll keep what was said private between he and I. But in terms of any question you're going to ask me today, just so you understand – we will do what is in the best interest of the New York Football Giants. That's the way we've operated since I walked in the door, and that's the way we will continue to operate. What we're trying to do here is build sustained success and that takes some brutal honesty and it takes some tough decisions."
One of the toughest will be determining whether Manning will continue in the role he has held since his rookie season in 2004. Gettleman was asked if he is "committed to having Eli back next year."
His commitment now is to gather as much information as possible before answering that question yes or no.
"Here's what I'm committed to do," Gettleman said. "I'm committed to making the best decision in the interest of the New York Football Giants. That's what I'm committed to do. We're in the evaluation process. I know that you guys want answers now, but very frankly, I didn't come in yesterday. I've got to do what I do, which is get in my office and watch film. We're going to meet this week with the coaches and get their evaluation, we'll meet next week with pro personnel and get their evaluations, and get their feelings on everything. That's our schedule, and I will be watching film for the next who knows how long until my eyes bleed. That's what I do. So, my commitment is to make this team the best team it can be and if that happens to have Eli playing quarterback, it does."
Manning had a productive season statistically. He completed a career-high 66 percent of his passes (380 of 576), exceeded 4,000 yards for the seventh time (4,299) and threw 21 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions, the latter figure his lowest total in 10 years.
The Giants scored no less than 27 points in four of their final five games (they were shut out by Tennessee in Week 15) and scored at least 30 points three times in that span. In those five games, Manning completed 103 of 173 passes for 1,206 yards, seven touchdown and four interceptions. And he played the final four of those games without his best wide receiver, Odell Beckham, Jr., who was sidelined with a quad injury.
"Once we got rolling, once everybody got comfortable with the offense, if you're going to look at stats, it wasn't too shabby what (Manning) did," Gettleman said. "…He still can make the NFL throws. You know what I'm saying? He's still got it."
But the Giants finished 5-11. They were 4-4 in the season's second half but lost their final three games, the last two by a single point. Twelve of their 16 games were decided by no more than a touchdown. The Giants lost an NFL-high eight of those games.
How does all that factor into the evaluation of Manning? A select few people know, and that information will be kept private. Manning will celebrate his 38th birthday tomorrow. How or if that factors into the final verdict is also speculation.
On Sunday, the Giants played a 60-minute version of their entire season. Manning threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns, but the defense surrendered a late lead and the team again trudged off the field after a close defeat, 36-35, to the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys.
In his postgame news conference, coach Pat Shurmur – like Gettleman, concluding his first season with the team – praised Manning.
"I think everybody thinks I'm nuts, but I've seen the good in Eli and I believe in the good, especially in the quarterback position," Shurmur said. "I believe everybody around him has to do their job as well … but I believe in him."
Gettleman will carefully consider Shurmur's input as he decides what to do at the quarterback position.
"This is not a dictatorship," Gettleman said. "I really am a big believer in collaboration. I'm not a dictator, I'm not. These are conversations that you're going to have with Pat, that's why I say we're going to hear the coaches and what they have to say, we're going to talk to the pro guys and what do they have to say, and then I'll get my work done and we'll get together and formulate a plan. Obviously, it's part of it. Pat's had a lot of success with quarterbacks, so I'm certainly going to listen."
On Monday, the players had their exit physicals and meetings with their coaches. Manning asked to speak to Gettleman, who said nothing was finalized in the meeting.
"We had a great conversation," Gettleman said. "He's a mensch. … (Because of) the way he carries himself, who he is as a person, the way he respects the game. You know men in your life who are not mensches? You know what a mensch is. There's no deviousness, there's no duplicitousness, none of that stuff. He's a mensch. Someday, I hope to be a mensch."
Right now, he's a general manager with a potential franchise-altering decision to make at the game's most important position.
"We're going to do what's in the (team's) best interest," Gettleman said. "We're going to look at film, we're going to evaluate everything. Everything is on the table for us."