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In a shocking move Tuesday afternoon, the New York Giants announced the end of Eli Manning's streak of 210 consecutive regular-season starts, an ironman performance topped only by Hall of Famer Brett Favre (297). But just as Favre's time in Green Bay eventually ended, this may be curtains for Manning's run on Broadway.
Based on what we know has happened and what could happen, here are eight logical destinations for Manning, assuming he'll be playing a 15th NFL season in 2018.
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Manning's longtime coach with the Giants, Tom Coughlin, now runs the Jags. (And let's not forget how hard Manning took the news when the Giants and Coughlin announced their awkward divorce following the 2015 campaign.) But Jacksonville offers a ready-made opportunity to win, featuring a young stud at running back in Leonard Fournette and a loaded defense poised to dominate for the next half-dozen years or more. The gaping hole is under center, where Blake Bortles has not developed into the franchise player the Jags had hoped for. Manning could be the perfect solution for a team that could use a veteran presence at the game's most important position and probably an ideal mentor since it still makes sense to bring in a long-term successor.
Eli has long followed in big brother Peyton's footsteps, so why not follow him to Denver? The Broncos have gone way off the rails in 2017, and it appears their post-Peyton QB conundrum is as weighty as ever. Could be time to go back to the Manning well in the short term to support a still-capable defense while hoping GM John Elway can find more effective heir apparents than Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian or – probably – Paxton Lynch.
Manning, 36, is actually 18 months younger than current Jets starter Josh McCown, who is not under contract beyond this season. The Jets have been surprisingly competitive this year and may actually have a better intermediate outlook than the Giants at this point. But their quarterback plan remains a mystery, especially since they may have played themselves out of the top of the 2018 draft. And Eli's philanthropic roots run deep in the New York area, the only place he's called home during his professional life.
Manning is known for his unflappable personality, but don't mistake that for lack of competitive fire. And don't forget how much Favre wanted to stick it to the Packers twice a year after they cut the cord with him. If the Redskins manage to finally lock up Kirk Cousins long term, this clearly wouldn't be a viable destination for Manning. But as things stand now, it's a far more realistic possibility in the future than Dallas or Philadelphia.
In all likelihood, Drew Brees will sign a new contract with the Saints after this season. But stranger things have happened in the NFL. In the event Brees and the Saints part ways, what better Plan B than a hometown hero who is two years younger than Brees? Maybe Eli could even wear Archie Manning's old No. 8 jersey.
Bruce Arians used to coach a young Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Now, Carson Palmer is another player facing an uncertain future on a veteran team that probably doesn't have the time to wait on a developmental quarterback, much less the ability to acquire a franchise type passer any time soon. Like Palmer, maybe Manning could enjoy a desert revival under quarterback whisperer Arians, whose offense still features highly capable WR Larry Fitzgerald and should have do-it-all RB David Johnson back at full speed next year.
The new regime is clearly not sold on Tyrod Taylor. And the world is not sold on rookie Nathan Peterman after his abysmal showing in a five-INT debacle two weeks ago. Buffalo isn't nearly as enticing as Jacksonville when it comes to personnel, weather, the Coughlin factor or Florida's lack of state income taxes. Still, the Bills appear to finally be on the upswing under rookie coach Sean McDermott. And if Manning managed to be the first quarterback to lead them to the postseason in the 21st century, he might get a statue in Orchard Park.
This marriage isn't necessarily over. The Giants still have plenty of talent on defense, will get WR Odell Beckham back healthy in 2018 and presumably know they need to fix the O-line and ground attack. It's hardly outside the realm of possibility they could do a 180 and be back in the 2018 playoffs with Manning at the controls.