The New York Giants know how difficult it is to find a successor to a great franchise quarterback like Eli Manning. It took them over a decade to find a successor to Phil Simms.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is entering his 15th season in the league. During that time, he’s established himself as not only the greatest quarterback in Giants history but in New York history as well.
He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Super Bowl MVP. His 51,682 passing yards are sixth-most in NFL history, his 339 touchdown passes the eighth-most in the NFL record books.
But as we all know nothing lasts forever. Manning turned 37 in January. He only has two years left on his contract. Like it or not, the end of his Hall of Fame career continues to draw ever closer.
The Giants are surely aware of that fact. It’s part of the reason why former general manager Jerry Reese took Davis Webb in the third round of the 2017 draft (87th overall) and why, this year, GM Dave Gettleman selected Kyle Lauletta in the fourth round (108th overall).
The Giants are hopeful either Webb or Lauletta can be the successor to Manning once he and the Giants part ways. But this is a franchise that knows all too well that finding a successor to a franchise quarterback is easier said than done.
Ironically, they were in the same situation that they’re in now 25 years ago.
Heading into the 1993 season, Phil Simms was 37 years old and the Giants had two young quarterbacks that they were hoping would be able to take over for Simms when he was done playing in Dave Brown and Kent Graham.
The Giants drafted Brown in the first round of the 1992 Supplemental Draft and took Graham in the eighth round of the 1992 NFL Draft.
Following the 1993 season, when the Giants were eliminated in the divisional round by the 49ers, they cut Simms, thrusting Brown and Graham into a quarterback competition to see who would be the starter for the 1994 season.
Brown would win the competition, the Giants would go 9-7 and just miss out on making the playoffs. Brown completed 201-of-350 passes for 2,536 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.
Feeling Brown was their quarterback of the present and future, the Giants and Graham parted ways after the season and he joined the Detroit Lions.
Unfortunately for the Giants, Brown regressed in 1995 and 1996. He threw 23 touchdowns to 30 interceptions in those two seasons as the Giants went a paltry 11-21.
When the Giants went 3-3 to start the 1997 season, they turned the reigns to over to Danny Kanell who the Giants drafted in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Kanell led the Giants to a 7-2-1 season the rest of the way and the NFC East division title while throwing 11 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
Even though the Giants lost in the wildcard round to the Vikings 23-22, they once again believed they found their quarterback on the future in Kanell, and Brown left after the season and signed with the Cardinals.
However once again, the Giants were wrong in their assessment of who they believed would be their franchise quarterback.
When the Giants began the 1998 season 3-7, they benched Kanell and called on Graham, who they had bought back at the start of the season.
Graham led the Giants to a 5-1 record the rest of the way, including a 20-16 victory over the 13-0 and eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Kanell left after the season and signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
Graham started the first nine games of 1999 and went 5-4 but was mostly ineffective, throwing nine touchdowns and nine interceptions and was sacked 26 times. Kerry Collins, who the Giants signed in the offseason, started the final seven games going 2-5.
Collins would have the best year of his career in 2000, throwing a career-high 22 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, leading the Giants to a 12-4 record and a trip to Super Bowl 35.
Although the Giants were trounced in the Super Bowl by the Ravens, 34-7, the Giants believed the 28-year-old Collins would be their quarterback for the next several years, especially after he threw five touchdowns in the Giants 41-0 victory over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.
The next two seasons were up and down for Collins in the Giants. They went 7-9 in 2001 and 10-6 in 2002 but were eliminated by the 49ers in the wildcard round.
Then in 2003, the Giants had probably their most disastrous season of the franchise until it was eclipsed by the 2017 season. The Giants went 4-12 and lost their final eight games. To make matter worse, Collins missed the three games due to injury.
Finally, A Replacement Arrives
Due to the 2003 season and the instability at the quarterback position following Simms’ departure, general manager Ernie Accorsi was prompted to make a bold and blockbuster trade on draft day 2004 to acquire Manning.
For those who don’t recall, the Giants traded Philip Rivers, a 2004 third-round pick (65th overall) and a 2005 first-round pick (12th overall). With those two picks, the Chargers selected kicker Nate Kaeding and linebacker Shawne Merriman.
Still, 14 years and two Super Bowl titles later, it’s safe to say that Accorsi’s bold gamble paid off.
Now, the Giants are hoping they won’t have to go through a quarterback carousel in finding Manning’s successor as they did finding Simms’ successor.
Although Webb and Lauletta weren’t first-round draft picks, there are reasons to be optimistic that they’ll have promising NFL futures.
Both had four years of playing experience in college and both had a better than a two-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio. Webb threw 83 touchdowns to 34 interceptions, while Lauletta threw 73 touchdowns to 35 interceptions. They’re the last two MVPs of the Senior Bowl.
Perhaps the biggest thing going in their favor, however, is that they’ll be mentored by Manning. You’d be hard-pressed to name another quarterback who can teach a young gunslinger what it means—and takes—to be a successful NFL QB on and off the field.
The only question remaining is this: Which one can make the most of their opportunity to learn from one of the best to ever play the game?