One thing that you can mark down in stone is that long-time Giants quarterback Eli Manning will be under center, according to head coach Pat Shurmur, who put any speculation to rest about who the team’s quarterback would be earlier in the week.
“We just want to play good football,” Shurmur said when asked what his expectation was for Manning this week. “What’s important is, stick with the progressions, get the ball out on time, understand all the situational football. He’s done this at a high level for a very long time, and my conversation with him over the weekend is what coaches and quarterbacks do as you plot the course moving forward.
“He’s like everybody on the team; there’s areas where he can improve, we talked about that, and we’ll get ready to go and put all our efforts toward beating San Francisco.”
Although Shurmur didn’t commit to whether Manning would be the starter beyond this week, the quarterback, who has stayed cool in the face of pressure throughout his career, did so again when peppered with questions regarding the sense of urgency he must be feeling.
“I think there’s urgency to get things going, for sure,” Manning said. “We got to get some wins. We got to get going, and everybody wants it. The team needs it, for the morale and for just the hard work and everything we put in. Just need to reap the benefits of the work and feel good about what we’re doing.”
But is he worried about losing his job if the Giants offense lays another stink bomb?
Manning shook his head no.
“You worry about this week,” he said. “We got the 49ers. I got a job to do, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
The 49ers are also having quarterback issues.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan formally announced Thursday that Nick Mullens has moved ahead of C.J. Beathard at quarterback on the depth chart and will get the start Monday night.
The game, coincidentally, will come exactly one year to the day after Beathard achieved the high point of his rookie season, directing the 49ers to their first victory of 2017, 31-21 over these same Giants.
That was a factor in this week’s decision.
To ride the hot hand of Mullens, who came right off the practice squad to throw three touchdown passes against the Oakland Raiders in a Thursday night masterpiece?
Or return to Beathard, who already has a win under his belt against the Giants, to his starting spot after he’d had time to recover from thumb and wrist injuries?
Shanahan even got a few extra days to think about it because of his team’s three-day head start on the rest of the league in Week 9.
Thursday, he assured he didn’t need the extra time to decide.
“I don’t think it was too tough of a decision,” Shanahan admitted. “Our team played really well (against the Raiders) and he (Mullens) played well. It was going to be hard to not give him the opportunity.”
As for the future, Shanahan was noncommittal, calling it a “week-to-week” decision. The club’s star quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, won’t be a part of that decision — this year, anyway — as he recovers from knee surgery.
But is it possible Mullens could play so well that even Garoppolo’s return to his former status would be in question?
Shanahan remains focused on the Giants, not next year’s training camp.
That said, he has insisted from Day 1 that competition makes everyone better.
“Those guys are very self-motivated. There’s not a time that you’ve got to give them a kick in the butt to do something. Those guys, they put more pressure on themselves than someone else,” Shanahan said of Mullens and Beathard.
“I think C.J. started off well and I think he went through a tough stretch. I think it is good for him to sit back and get fully healthy and heal up and watch someone else do it. He’s only a play away from getting in. So he’ll be ready.”
The Giants defense is about to find out Monday night if Mullens is for real. All Mullens did in his first extensive playing time last week on a national stage was complete 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards, and three touchdowns for a 151.9 passer rating in a 34-3 spanking of the Raiders.
Mullens doesn’t offer ideal size nor arm strength for the position, but his quick feet in the pocket helps him avoid the pass rush, and he has a rapid set-up and release that gets the ball out of his hand in a snap. Because he doesn’t have ideal arm strength, he figures to push the ball underneath on slants and crossing patterns and let his receivers and tight end do the heavy lifting. If so, the Giants defense better make sure they are getting off their blocks and that they’re not getting caught flat-footed in coverage while trying to watch Mullens’ eyes.
Offensively, the Giants need to get their running game going against a 49ers defense that is somewhat banged up and that is allowing opponents 102.8 rushing yards per game. It would also probably help the Giants offense if it made more of an effort to get running back Saquon Barkley into space to help bring down one of the defenders that usually teams up on double coverage against Odell Beckham Jr.