As the NFL turns its attention to the draft and free agency, Dallas Cowboys reporter Todd Archer, Washington Redskins reporter John Keim, Philadelphia Eagles reporter Tim McManus and New York Giants reporter Jordan Raanan look to the 2018 season with a series of questions this week.
Monday's question: Can the Eagles command the East the way they did under Andy Reid?
Tuesday's question: How will Alex Smith's addition to the Redskins impact the division?
Wednesday’s question: Should we expect a different Eli Manning with Pat Shurmur as the coach and Dave Gettleman as the GM in New York?
Archer: Shurmur went 9-23 in his two years (2011-12) as the Cleveland Browns' head coach, which, looking at the Browns' results over the past couple of years, maybe should have earned him an extension. Gettleman put together a Carolina Panthers team that went to a Super Bowl and has been a relatively consistent playoff contender. The Giants aren't as bad as their 3-13 record indicated. It was a confluence of events that triggered their downfall. Based on what Shurmur got out of Case Keenum last year in Minnesota, he should be able to help Manning. Manning’s interception rate has been too high, not only late in his career, but for most of his career. The return of Odell Beckham Jr. will help, but Gettleman can help Manning the most by improving the offensive line. The biggest reason for the Giants' struggles in recent years has been their line play. They have not been able to protect Manning well enough or long enough, and the running game has not been very successful either. The Giants have to look to the future at quarterback with Manning entering his 15th season, but Shurmur might be able to coax out one more solid season from the veteran if Gettleman can put some pieces in place.
Keim: Maybe. But we were supposed to get a different version of Manning the past couple of years and that really hasn’t materialized. In fairness to Manning, injuries last fall robbed him of his weapons, notably receiver Odell Beckham Jr. And the line continues to need help. That’s the tough part about grading Manning. How much of his decrease in productivity stemmed from his decline and how much was it the talent (or lack thereof) around him? The good thing for Manning and the Giants is that Shurmur has a good reputation working with quarterbacks and fitting a system to signal-callers' strengths. Gettleman is a respected general manager. Because of that, and assuming better health around him, Manning should improve. The question then becomes by how much? I don’t think it will be enough.
McManus: I certainly don’t expect the 15-year veteran to change his spots, but new leadership will provide a short-term jolt for Manning, assuming Gettleman and Shurmur follow up on their commitment to fortify the offensive line. Shurmur is a bright offensive mind with a small ego who has been exposed to myriad offensive schemes in his travels. He’ll create a system that pulls from those experiences and caters to Manning’s strengths. There’s also a good chance that competition is added to the quarterback room, whether that’s via the No. 2 overall pick in the April draft or free agency. That should get Manning’s competitive juices flowing. It’s no secret that he is in the twilight of his career. If the season doesn’t get off to the desired start or the front office grows anxious to usher in a new era, Manning might not last the year as the Giants' starter. But at 37, he still has some gas in the tank and will respond to the regime change and the threat of losing his job by stepping up his game.
Raanan: It seems a flawed approach to believe that a quarterback who will turn 38 before the end of the season will magically revert to the form from his prime that brought a pair of Super Bowl titles. Manning has been in serious decline the past two seasons and showed in 2017 that he is no longer capable of carrying a team, even for a limited period. Now, it doesn’t mean that Shurmur, who works well with quarterbacks, shouldn’t be able to coax a useful season or two out of Manning. He worked wonders the past two years with Sam Bradford and Keenum. He should be able to get average play out of an aging Manning (see 2016 with 26 TD passes and 16 INTs), especially with Gettleman committed to drastically improving the offensive line around him. The question is what is the Giants’ goal: Get a year or two of respectable play out of Manning or build for the future with Davis Webb or potentially the No. 2 overall pick? The likelihood is the Giants’ next Super Bowl will not be with Manning at quarterback, and it’s not coming this season following a 3-13 campaign.