Whether they do it this year or next year, via the draft, free agency or trade, the biggest responsibility of the New York Giants decision-making regime of GM Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur is to find a quarterback who can eventually replace Eli Manning.
That begs the question — what, exactly, might Gettleman and Shurmur be looking for in a quarterback to replace the guy who has led the team for 15 years and been the architect of a pair of incredible Super Bowl victories?
Dan Hatman of The Scouting Academy and Inside The Pylon, and also a former NFL scout who worked for Gettleman with the Giants, thinks the Giants will fall back on what they know and are familiar with.
“Dave has spent so much time building organizations inside out. He’s had so much of his career where he’s done such a great job building o-lines, d-lines and assessing and evaluating and being an expert on what those things look like in the NFL,” Hatman said.
“That toughness I think is going to resonate. I think the way the building has felt about Eli for a long time in terms of who he is as a person, his ability to be a pro and carry himself in that market. I have to imagine those things are going to be ones they’re going to want to continue.”
“Eli’s not a player that’s failed for the Giants organization. They’re looking at two rings on their fingers. I imagine they’re feeling like this guy has been our leader. I don’t see why they wouldn’t be looking for as close to an approximation as they can get from that standpoint, particularly on the mental side,” Hatman said.
“If you’re around Eli for a few minutes you recognize how intelligent he is, how diligent he is and how professional he is. Having felt that building before those seem to be things that organizationally the owners on down are attracted to. That’s a very professional organization and I think they like to carry themselves as such, they like to be known as such. Finding players that fit that would make sense to me.”
This sort of takes us back to the recent piece on why NFL teams aren’t better at drafting and developing quarterbacks. Everyone has biases, or pre-conceived notions of what they are looking for. They matter.
“Our cognitive biases going into a process almost invariably dictate outcomes,” Hatman said.
“The fact is, the humans doing the evaluations all have biases,” said quarterback analyst and BBV contributor Mark Schofield.
What biases do Gettleman and Shurmur have?
Gettleman is a blank canvas when it comes to quarterbacks. He has no track record, aside from taking a flier on Kyle Lauletta in the fourth round a year ago. He never selected a quarterback during his tenure as GM of the Carolina Panthers. He passed on last year’s highly-touted quarterback class for Saquon Barkley, the draft’s best player and the one he was clearly in love with. Gettleman spent most of his career in pro personnel and became known for his ability to uncover offensive and defensive line talent.
Gettleman stuck with Manning a year ago when many thought he would move on. He and Shurmur appear ready to do so again in 2019, albeit with a potential successor in hand if they can find the guy they believe could be the right one.
Gettleman’s got two Super Bowl rings courtesy of Manning. He was with the franchise during the first half of Manning’s career. More than anyone, he knows how the organization — from ownership to the equipment managers and secretaries — feel about Manning. What the organization has appreciated about him.
What do we know about Gettleman?
We know that he is 67 years old and his NFL value system is a traditional one, rooted in the basic tenets of run the ball, stop the run, rush the passer.
We know he loves the big people. He calls offensive and defensive linemen “hog mollies,” and as Hatman indicated has developed a reputation over the years as being an evaluator who is good at identifying talent at those positions.
We also know that first and foremost he wants a quarterback who can do the primary thing that has always been most important for an NFL quarterback. Because he told us so last year during his pre-draft press conference:
“If you can’t make plays from the pocket you can’t win,” Gettleman said.
Shurmur has worked with all kinds of quarterbacks — mobile ones, immobile ones, top draft picks, undrafted free agents. He has also worked in a variety of offensive systems. As a head coach of the Cleveland Browns, his only quarterback draft pick was Branden Weeden (22nd, 2012). The only thing we can learn from that? The Browns were desperate.
What are the characteristics Shurmur values most in a quarterback?
One is demeanor. “I sort of like a calm approach to the position,” is something he said during his introductory press conference.” It is also something that both Manning and Kyle Lauletta were praised repeatedly for last season.
Another is size.
“I fancy guys that are tall,” Shurmur said before the 2018 draft. “You can see. Some of us are challenged in terms of height, so even in a setting like this, you’re trying to find sight lines. It’s no different for a quarterback when he is behind a very tall offensive line,” Shurmur said. “All else being equal, as long as all the skillsets are equal or maybe even a little better than equal, guys that can see have a chance to be very good.”
Toughness makes the list. Here is something Shurmur said during the season about Manning:
“The thing I like about Eli – and I appreciate this about anybody – at some point in this game, you don’t win all the time, and at some point you take a punch, and Eli can take them and keep playing. I think that’s the thing that even before I knew Eli, as much winning as he was involved with here all those years, I always admired the fact that he just stays the course and keeps playing with the idea that tomorrow is going to be a better day if today isn’t such a good one,” Shurmur said. “I admire that. That’s really the most important thing, toughness and grit. You can be smart, you can be well-dressed, you can be well-spoken, but at the end of the day and it’s absolutely demanded in our sport, is your ability to be tough and gritty. Those are the attributes in people and especially in football players that is an absolute necessity in our business.”
“You have to be a good decision-maker, you have to have a sense of timing and you have to throw an accurate ball,” Shurmur said.
Another thing Shurmur said a few times when questioned about Manning was that “experience matters” at the quarterback position.
So, what does all that mean?
Well, for starters it’s probably not good news for fans hoping the Giants will think outside the box and select Kyler Murray. If weight is to be given to Gettleman’s traditional roots and the predispositions of the GM and coach to value size, they won’t put the organization’s future in the hands of Murray.
It’s also fair to wonder if Murray’s vacillation between pro baseball and football will be another strike in Gettleman’s eyes.
This is something Gettleman said at his introductory press conference:
“There’s two kinds of players in this league, folks. There are guys that play professional football and there are professional football players,” Gettleman said. “And the professional football players are the guys we want. I don’t want guys that want to win. I want guys that hate to lose. That’s the professional football player. That’s what you want. So, it’s important.”
It’s not hard to see Gettleman looking at Murray and questioning not only his physical characteristics, but his passion and commitment to football. Rightly or wrongly.
Haskins (6-2, 214), Jones (6-5, 220), Drew Lock (6-3, 225) and Jarrett Stidham (6-2, 214) all meet the size threshold. There are also things about each that might not fit the ideal picture of what Gettleman and Shurmur would like.
Haskins is considered QB1 and mocked to the Giants more than any other player. Still, if experience matters that much to Shurmur the Giants might be leery of his status as a one-year starter. Some have questioned Haskins’ decision-making particularly under pressure. How will the Giants’ braintrust see all of that?
Jones is perhaps the most “Manning-like” of the bunch. That might be because he spent the last four years coached by Manning’s QB mentor, David Cutcliffe, and roughly the last seven years working with Manning’s backup at Ole Miss, quarterbacks coach David Morris. Decision-making and ability to play beyond schemed one-read throws appear to be the biggest questions with Jones.
Lock has the big arm, but some question his accuracy and decision-making.
“Stidham has regularly crumbled in big moments and his results under pressure are poor. His struggles when forced to speed up his process are concerning.”
If I had to guess, the guys who check the most boxes among the things we think the Giants will value are Haskins, Jones, Stidham and perhaps Lock. In later rounds, maybe Rypien because of his accuracy and Jackson simply because of size and raw tools.
Admittedly, some of what I have done here is speculative. I’m trying to read the tea leaves, trying to figure out what the probabilities are based on what we know about the decision makers and the prospective quarterbacks involved.
If you have read this far what I would encourage you to do is what I have tried to do here. Put yourself inside the minds of Gettleman and Shurmur. Try to see the draft through the lens of what we think we know about them, and about the Giants as an organization, rather than your own “this is the guy I like” viewpoint.
Through that lens, who do you think is the guy the Giants would really want in this class?
As much as the mock draft drumbeat keeps pounding out Haskins’ name for the Giants, and there is a definite possibility that will end being how this goes down, that seems like anything but a guarantee.
I still believe someone will trade up before the No. 6 pick currently held by the Giants to get Haskins, and that the Giants are not likely to be the team making that move. My read right now is that I doubt the Giants see Haskins as worth giving up their draft for, which, since they don’t have a third-round pick, is pretty much what they would have to do.
I believe it’s far more likely that the Giants watch Haskins come off the board before they get a chance to turn in a card, then use their pick at No. 6 to bolster their offensive line or defensive front seven. Then, try to either trade into the middle of Round 1 to get a quarterback or cross their fingers and hope a guy they like (Jones? Stidham?) is still there when they choose in Round 2.
The only real guarantee is that no matter what they do or who they pick, if they pick anybody, is that there is no guarantee they can find a franchise quarterback — or even a capable starter — in this class.