Eli's Going: Why the Giants will turn to Daniel Jones sooner rather than later

Clark Judge

Eli Manning is the Giants’ starting quarterback when they open the season, but here’s a prediction: He won’t be the starting quarterback when they end it.

Rookie Daniel Jones will.

OK, it’s more than a prediction. It’s an ironclad guarantee. And here’s why: Recent history tells us that coaches can’t wait to take a look at rookie quarterbacks chosen in the first round of the NFL draft -- and Jones not only was a first-round pick of the Giants; he was the sixth overall choice.

That not only increases his chances of starting this season but of starting more games than Manning … and you can look it up.

I did, and what I found was that the overwhelming majority of quarterbacks chosen in the first rounds of the 10 drafts prior to this year (2009-18) – especially quarterbacks chosen in the top 10 – started most of the games their rookie seasons.

And that’s just the beginning. Here’s more from the 2009-18 drafts:

n Of the 29 quarterbacks chosen in the first-round, 20 started 10 or more games, including five who started all 16.

n Of the 19 quarterbacks drafted in the top 10, 17 started 10 or more games. Only Jake Locker (0 in 2011) and Patrick Mahomes (one in 2017) did not.

n Only five first-round picks started five or fewer games, with Locker the only one to sit the entire year.

n Of the 14 quarterbacks chosen sixth or higher – and, remember, Jones was the sixth overall choice – all but Jared Goff (2017) started at least 10 games. In fact, the average number of starts for quarterbacks taken 1-6 was 13.5.

n The combined rookie record of first-rounders is 116-184, with 20 losers and five winners – Mark Sanchez (8-7 in 2009), Andrew Luck (11-5 in 2012), Robert Griffin III (9-6 in 2012), Patrick Mahomes (1-0) in 2017) and Lamar Jackson (6-1 in 2018). Three played to .500 records, and Locker sat.

I know, Giants’ coach Pat Shurmur has been steadfast in his support of Manning and held firm despite the guttering play of Jones in the preseason, but so what? A year ago, then-Cleveland coach Hue Jackson stuck to Tyrod Taylor as his opener and swore that Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick, would spend his rookie season on the bench.

He was the starter by Week 4.

The year before that, Houston coach Bill O’Brien stuck with veteran Tom Savage as his season opener – preferring to keep first-round draft pick Deshaun Watson on the sidelines. That plan lasted exactly one half of one game.

Nevertheless, Shurmur and Giants’ GM Dave Gettleman have floated scenarios where Eli could be with the Giants in 2020, but let’s be honest, people. The Giants didn’t spend the sixth pick of the draft on Jones to have him watch Manning from the sidelines.

And if they won’t acknowledge, it history does.

Manning is a fan favorite, the face of the franchise and the guy who delivered the Giants their last two Super Bowls. But the bottom line is this: He hasn’t led them to the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons, is 47-64 during that time, 8-23 the past two years and, most important, 38 years ago.

In short, he’s a descending quarterback.

So it doesn’t matter that he opens the year as the Giants’ starter. What history tells us is that we’re going to see rookie Daniel Jones sooner or later this season, with sooner the heavy favorite.

And, no, it really doesn’t matter if Manning enjoys some early success. We learned that in 2004 when Hall-of-Fame quarterback Kurt Warner had the Giants 5-4 and suddenly sat down in favor of the team’s first-round draft pick.

Eli Manning.

Bottom line: When Eli starts Sunday vs. Dallas so does the countdown on his career.


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