DENVER — Eli Manning or Tony Romo?
If you’re the Green Bay Packers, with Aaron Rodgers possibly out for the year with a broken collarbone, which quarterback would you rather lure to Lambeau Field?
Manning, 36, a two-time Super Bowl winner on a Giants team going nowhere, is running out of time to win Ring No. 3. And he is familiar with the Packers’ offense, having spent several seasons working with coach/coordinator Ben McAdoo, who was Aaron Rodgers’ former quarterbacks’ coach and a longtime Mike McCarthy assistant in Green Bay.
Romo, 37, a retiree after 14 seasons as a Cowboy, is thriving in his new role as CBS’ lead analyst alongside Jim Nantz in the booth. And Romo’s two back surgeries and two clavicle fractures make it unlikely he ever sees the field again.
And yet, Romo grew up in Burlington, Wisc., and still seems to have the itch to play. And it’s hard to envision a more perfect, storybook ending and opportunity for Romo than playing the hero for the Pack.
This past Thursday night, in fact, Romo raised some eyebrows and gave Nantz a nice scare when he joked about possibly still wanting to play during the Eagles-Panthers telecast.
CBS cued up a replay of the final pass of Romo’s career, a 3-yard TD pass to Terrance Williams on Jan. 1, 2017.
“By the way, against Philadelphia, on the first day of this year, your last pass of your career was a touchdown against the Eagles to Terrance Williams,” Nantz said.
“Was it the last pass?” Romo said with a wry smile, before giving Nantz a jab.
“Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare start that,” Nantz said with a nervous chuckle. Shortly after, Nantz sarcastically thanked Romo for getting the rumor mill started again.
Romo is under contract with CBS but if he decided to return and play he would be easily available to Green Bay as a free agent, since he already was released by the Cowboys. And he would play on a prorated one-year contract that would be off the books by February.
Jay Cutler did it in August, leaving his FOX broadcasting gig and coming out of retirement to join the Miami Dolphins on a one-year deal when Ryan Tannehill got hurt. And the Packers need the same type of immediate help because Rodgers’ backup is Brett Hundley, 24, a fifth-round 2015 pick out of UCLA with three career NFL completions to his name in three years.
Acquiring Manning would be much more expensive for the Packers. Green Bay would have to trade players and/or picks to the Giants to get Manning, and they would have to eat the costly final two seasons on his current deal ($22 million in 2018, $23 in 2019).
Paying the price for Manning would be warranted, though, if the Packers were understandably wary of Romo’s ability to make it through even a single game without suffering another injury.
Romo also never has won a title. Manning, on the other hand, is still playing and has won two championships. And perhaps most relevantly, Manning won playoff games at Lambeau Field on both of his Giants’ Super Bowl runs, including in minus-one degree weather on Jan. 20, 2008, in one of the coldest games in NFL history.
Plus, given how unexpectedly disastrous the Giants’ 2017 season has gone, with uncertainty surrounding the futures of McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese and Odell Beckham Jr. out for the season, it isn’t unthinkable that the Giants would explore trading Manning.
Geno Smith is their backup. The Giants like rookie Davis Webb, their third round pick out of Cal. And they have a legitimate chance of picking in the top five of next year’s quarterback-heavy draft. So if the Giants are going to undergo a significant rebuild, ridding themselves of Manning’s heavy contract would be a logical place to start.
McAdoo also is frequently critical of Manning and constantly harps on how he prioritizes qualities such as mobility that Manning doesn’t have. So it wouldn’t be a shock if McAdoo approved moving on from Manning.
Rumors actually started floating last week that perhaps Tom Coughlin’s Jaguars may try to poach Manning midseason to bolster a surprisingly competitive Jacksonville team. Now Rodgers’ injury puts the Packers on the list.
Manning ended his 2016 season in a Giants uniform at Lambeau in a 38-13 Wild Card defeat this past January. Could he be back in Green Bay in a Packers jersey before the Oct. 31 NFL trade deadline? Or will it be Tony Romo trading in his sport coat to don the gold and green?
Either one joining the Packers would be Giant news.