The New York Giants finished the 2018 season with a record of just 5-11, poor enough to secure the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Their five wins marked an improvement over the 2017 season, but not by much. They finished 3-13 a year ago and secured the No. 2 overall pick, which they used on former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
The Giants were criticized in many circles for taking a running back at No. 2 overall, even by people who acknowledged Barkley's special talent. Running backs just don't tend to move the needle very much in the NFL these days -- even if they are superstars. And with the Giants in position to potentially take a franchise quarterback and lock up a successor to Eli Manning in what was seen as a deep quarterback class, the decision to pass on that chance was met with scrutiny.
Those concerns came to bear during the 2018 season. Barkley put up spectacular numbers and put himself in position to potentially win Offensive Rookie of the Year: 261 carries for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus 91 catches for 721 additional yards and four more scores. His 2,028 total yards from scrimmage led the entire NFL. And it mostly didn't matter. The Giants were still dreadful, and their offense showed only moderate improvement. Additionally, Barkley himself was often a boom-or-bust player, breaking a bunch of big plays but ranking 40th in Football Outsiders' rushing success rate out of the 47 players who received at least 100 carries.
One could argue that Barkley's presence improved Manning's play, but if it did, it wasn't by much -- and it was barely enough to lift him to average. Manning went from throwing 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on 571 passes in 2017 to 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on 576 passes in 2018.
With the Giants again in position to secure a passer near the top of the draft, there has been speculation that they'll finally lock in Manning's successor. Given that the Giants can save approximately $17 million on the cap by cutting Manning this offseason, lowering his cap hit from around $23 million to around $6 million, it would make a lot of sense to do so. But Manning's agent, Tom Condon, seems to think his client will be back in New York for another year.
Per the New York Post, Condon was asked if Manning will be on the Giants next season. "Shoot, yeah, I think so," he said.
Condon noted that he does not have a firm handle on the Giants' plans at quarterback, but that he thinks Eli does not have much interesting in playing elsewhere, provided he's treated right by the Giants. "I think he'd love to come back," Condon said. "Guys love to play their whole careers with one team, if they have a good experience with that team."
This should not be a difficult decision for New York. It's become increasingly clear over the past few years that Manning is no longer near the peak of his career, and he is not capable of elevating the players around him in order to bring them to the playoffs or beyond. It's OK to admit that while at the same time being grateful for everything he did for the franchise, which includes two of the greatest Super Bowl runs in NFL history. The Giants should draft his successor and send him off into the sunset with a nice retirement ceremony that pays tribute to all he accomplished in a Giants uniform. Doing so would allow them to honor one of their marquee players and a franchise icon, while also finally moving on to the next era of Giants football, which needs to happen whether they like it or not.