The New York Giants might be about to make an enormous mistake.
They were a bad football team in 2018, by essentially every measurement. And there’s a sense within the organization that the team should follow their philosophy, and take the best player on the board when they select at No. 2, according to The New York Daily News.
That would be a missed opportunity.
When most teams lose their starting quarterback to an injury or retirement, they struggle to recover in the year that player leaves (see: Peyton Manning’s Colts). But teams that have a plan in place for succession can skip that horrific season or those horrific seasons (see: Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers’ Packers). The Giants have mixed up the order of things by stinking at the end of Eli Manning’s career. While their fans surely didn’t enjoy the abominable seasons, the team has stunk at an opportune time. They find themselves with the rare opportunity to get one of the draft’s top prospects in a year where there is no shortage of excellent quarterback prospects. No prospect is comparable to Andrew Luck. There’s no John Elway 2.0. But generational talents are just that: once in a generation.
The Browns appear to be circling in on USC’s Sam Darnold or Wyoming’s Josh Allen. UCLA’s Josh Rosen is still a possibility. There were reports he didn’t want to play in Cleveland, which he later denied. Perhaps that initial report will be enough to scare off the Browns. So the Giants may have the chance to land Rosen, who is probably the best quarterback in the class, or Darnold, who is probably the safest in the class. Heck, they could take Allen, who has the highest upside, according to some (including ESPN’s Mel Kiper).
It’s not like the Giants don’t have good quarterback options.
The Giants shouldn’t plan to pick in the top five selections of any draft in the coming years. And if that is, in fact, their plan, then they also can’t possibly hope to get a quarterback prospect of Rosen and Darnold’s caliber without giving up an enormous sum of draft assets to jump into the top five. If there are excellent prospects available to the Giants (which there are) and their quarterback is 37 and showing signs of regression (which Manning is), then they need to get a quarterback while the getting is good.
What’s more, by drafting a quarterback now, the Giants give that quarterback time to develop behind Manning. Sure, Manning won’t love the idea that he’s competing with and even mentoring a successor. But if Manning collapses because of a 23-year-old, then perhaps that’s further proof they needed the 23-year-old in the first place.
They may be considering better prospects like NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb or Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Those players could surely make a bigger impact on the franchise in year one. But there’s no way they make the same impact that a franchise quarterback can make. A good quarterback can last 15 years (or more) in today’s NFL where the league protects their signal-callers. A good quarterback can more easily lead to Super Bowls than a running back or a defensive end. And a good quarterback can fill seats at a stadium sooner than any other position.
Barkley has the opportunity to be another iteration of Barry Sanders. At least, NFL.com compares Barkley to Sanders. But of course, Sanders never won a Super Bowl. Le’Veon Bell has never won a Super Bowl. Adrian Peterson has never won a Super Bowl. Running backs can lead teams to championships. But quarterbacks are simply more important.
If the idea is to take the Giants into another era of Super Bowl contention, they need to get their quarterback. Rosen and Darnold, in particular, are outstanding options to be that guy. The Giants owe Manning a great deal for the success he brought the organization. But smart teams know when and how to cut bait. By drafting Rosen or Darnold, the Giants can move on when they’re ready — not when Manning is.
Honoring Manning could send the organization into a tailspin. This is an organization that has not won a playoff game since the Super Bowl victory after the 2011 season. Do they really want to make that number reach a decade or more by delaying their future? They’re a business and they need to treat this draft decision as such. They need a quarterback, and they should take one at No. 2 overall.