LAS COLINAS, Tex. — Eli still loves the Giants. And John Mara still loves Eli.
The Giants are a team in transition, but Mara said Wednesday that he wants Eli Manning back for his 15th season with the Giants in 2018. Manning has previously said the Giants are all he knows and he wants to remain.
When Mara was asked directly about wanting Manning to return despite the Giants 2-11 record, 2-10 with Manning as the starter, he didn’t hesitate and said, “Yes.”
Back in his rookie year in 2004, Manning was Kurt Warner’s backup for the first nine games of the season before taking over. Manning could potentially fill the veteran mentor role if the Giants draft a quarterback at the top of the 2018 draft.
Can he be Warner?
“He can be Eli Manning for us,” Mara said.
As far as if he feels Manning still has something left, he said he did, but when asked if his play in 2017 gave him concern, he said, “I’m concerned about our team. We still think he can play. We obviously have to get better around him.”
He did acknowledge that if the new GM and coach don’t think it’s in the Giants best interests to keep Manning, “We will have that discussion,” Mara said.
Mara has seen USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen play, but would not commit that the Giants would look at this as they did in 2004 and view the draft as an opportunity to take care of QB for the next 14 years.
“The worst thing to do is force it and take the wrong guy,” he said.
As far as getting rookie Davis Webb on the field in the last three games, Mara said he doesn’t like to interfere with coaching decisions, and when he mentioned the need to play Geno Smith and Webb to now-fired GM Jerry Reese a few weeks ago, it was more in the form of a question that a mandate. The Giants don’t necessarily feel they would learn much about Webb with the current depleted state of the wide receivers and offensive line.
As he walked through the hallway during a break in the NFL meetings, Mara said the interviews for general manager will start next week, and the Giants will announce the candidates as they come in. He would like to interview candidates from other teams when they become available after the season, but Mara didn’t rule out making the hire quickly.
The interviews are expected to start with Dave Gettleman, the Giants former pro personnel director and former Panthers GM, as well as internal candidates Kevin Abrams and Marc Ross.