Pat Shurmur Is Handling the Giants’ Complicated Quarterback Situation ... Well?

The Giants’ head coach was handed a nearly impossible task—remaining loyal to the aging Eli Manning while simultaneously readying the rookie to come in at a moment’s notice, if needed—and he’s managing it well.
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Now that we’re almost through the dark and dismal sewer escape that is the NFL preseason, it’s time to confront a reality that may not be popular at the moment: Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur is handling the situation with quarterbacks Eli Manning and Daniel Jones about as well as humanly possible.

After viewing last night’s Giants-Bengals tilt, I re-watched each of the Giants’ first two preseason games and broke down the total snaps, snap-to-pass ratio and some other less essential minutiae when both quarterbacks were playing with the starting unit (or something that mostly resembled the starting unit).

The final tally:

• Eli Manning was on the field for 28 snaps with the starting offensive line, receivers, tight ends, etc., with 15 passing attempts (I’m including everything, even those negated by penalties, because theoretically you can get something out of that as a quarterback).

• Daniel Jones was on the field for 31 snaps with the starters, with 17 passing attempts.

Let’s think for a moment. Coming into this season, the Giants organization is asking Shurmur to do a similar version of the tap dance that Ben McAdoo was unable to maintain when he was fired in the middle of his second season. That evident lack of finesse and salesmanship was costly.

To be the head coach of the Giants right now is to be a person tasked with continuing the organization’s full and unfleeting loyalty to Eli Manning, while simultaneously readying a rookie quarterback to take significant snaps should Manning’s decline continue. (Do you have any concept of how hard that is with limited repetitions?) Meanwhile, you do your best not to ignite any quarterback controversy, while simultaneously buoying Jones’s confidence in the largest media market in the country. While it probably wasn’t that explicit, I’m sure Shurmur saw the strange deference Manning got around these parts, and not only from the people at the top of the organizational structure, but from a fan base that acted horrified at the idea of sitting him when he wasn’t playing well each of the past few seasons.

That the Giants have arrived to this point without any major fires on the quarterback front—beyond the blowback they initially took for making the selection in the first place—is incredible. And, Jones looks fully capable of playing at some point this season if need be. One could argue that the plan had its faults, and that the Giants were lucky they did not lose any of their most important players during their extended working time with Jones (that usually meant going to the half). Luck aside, Manning could trot out as the starter at the beginning of the game and everything would appear status quo, while Jones got valuable reps that appeared commensurate with the pecking order.

It’s too late to untangle the web the Giants have knotted themselves into when it comes to Manning, but, to Shurmur’s credit, his preseason strategy finally has the team in a position to painlessly flip the switch if and when the Week 1 starter bottoms out.

Both the Giants’ owner and general manager are speaking a version of the same line—that they hope Jones doesn’t have to play for years—and that is no small task. Of course, if they really believed that, they would not have spent their most significant draft capital of the year on a player who happens to operate at the same position. They then left the logistics to the coach, who not only had a team to prepare, but a succession to expedite and organize if need be.

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