JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Eli Manning is a lot like Blake Bortles in one critical area: They’re both turnover machines.
Both average 1.3 per game. From 2004 to ’16, Manning averaged 16.5 interceptions per season. Bortles averaged 17 per season in his first three seasons. Manning led the NFL in interceptions three times — including throwing 27 in 2013 — and Bortles led the league with 18 in 2015. The turnovers drove Tom Coughlin nuts when he was with the New York Giants, and they’re driving him crazy this year, too.
That was Coughlin’s No. 1 priority with Bortles this season: Cut down on the turnovers. He has, slightly. He has 11 in 11 games and is on pace for a career-low 16. Manning, by the way, also has 11 in 11 games.
Does that mean that the Jaguars shouldn’t take a serious look at making Manning their starting quarterback in 2018? Absolutely not. His experience, ability to carry a team for several weeks and clutch performances in the playoffs (remember the two game-winning drives in the Super Bowl) should make Coughlin, GM Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone look long and hard at Manning.
If Eli Manning moves on from the Giants, might a reunion with Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville be an option? Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
That, of course, depends on the team making the decision to move on from Bortles. That’s certainly not as easy a decision as many outside the organization believe. Caldwell is a staunch Bortles supporter and Coughlin and Marrone believe that they can win with Bortles, provided he’s given a good supporting cast, which injuries have robbed him of this season. It’s not out of the question that Bortles is the starter in 2018.
But if he isn’t, the Jaguars will have multiple options. Kirk Cousins, provided Washington doesn’t franchise tag him again, is the top quarterback available. It doesn’t appear that Jimmy Garoppolo will be available (San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that it was likely the 49ers would use the franchise tag on him). Alex Smith could be if Kansas City decides to go with Patrick Mahomes after Smith’s dip in play over the past month.
A veteran quarterback makes more sense for the Jaguars right now. The defense is Super Bowl caliber, but there’s a small window to keep that defense together considering the age and contract situations of some of the key players. Drew Brees, Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater also are scheduled to be free agents.
Manning, provided he has been released or is willing to accept a trade, should be considered. Even at 37 years old his upside outweighs his turnover concerns and would give the Jaguars a chance at a deep playoff run.