New York got off to a painful start, losing seven of its first eight games. Manning looked mortal, if not downright awful as the Giants' signal-caller, but he wasn't getting much help from the men tasked with protecting him.
And yet, it took the Giants until Week 10 to start to figure things out. Manning tossed three touchdowns for the first time all season in that game, a 27-23 win over the equally lowly San Francisco 49ers. Barkley fully morphed into the heart of New York's offense a week later, rushing 27 times for 142 yards in a win over Tampa Bay. Just as quickly as their success arrived, so disappeared the criticism of Manning. Were the Giants finally turning the corner, and was Manning headed toward another few years as the franchise quarterback?
Week 15 provided a swift answer for all of those questions: No.
It's a situation of New York's own doing. Giants GM Dave Gettleman opted to spend the No. 2 overall pick -- in a draft touted for its high-level depth at quarterback -- on Barkley, the best running back (and to some, the best overall player) in the class. Sam Darnold slid to No. 3, where he was scooped up by the Giants' Metlife Stadium roommates.
The future franchise quarterback is in New York -- but he's wearing green and white. That means Manning, who has completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 3,689 yards, 18 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a passer rating of 92.1 in 2018, is likely in line to return out of necessity.
Is it the experience, though, or the gaping void behind Manning that's dictating this stance? Shurmur said (honestly or not, we'll never know) he believes Manning has "years" remaining as an NFL starter, meaning it's the former -- even if it's a flimsy platform on which he's perching his team.
To Shurmur, it's oddly still better than playing Lauletta.
"Think we're going to try to put the player that gives us the best chance to win," Shurmur said. "We'll see if that involves Kyle. ... Eli playing QB I think gives us the best chance to win."
Shurmur might also have an eye on the future. The upcoming NFL draft class figures to feature at least a couple of first-round quarterbacks (depending on the decisions of Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins and Oregon's Justin Herbert), and the Giants will likely be in prime position to take one of their preference. It would make more sense, then, to keep Manning installed as the starter for 2018 and 2019 before allowing the ideal 2019 pick at the position to succeed him, a la Patrick Mahomes following Alex Smith in Kansas City.