Eli Manning: Giants' pick of Saquon Barkley 'showed that they still think I can perform at a high level'

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning took notice when the New York Giants opted against drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 pick and instead selected running back Saquon Barkley.

That decision meant something to the 14-year veteran.

After a down year in which Manning's consecutive games streak was snapped and his ego was dented, this was a gigantic show of faith. The Giants could have drafted Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, all of whom went in the top 10. They could've looked to go in other directions as well.

Instead, they were fully committing to at least one more season with Manning as their quarterback.

"Well, yeah," Manning said Tuesday after the first mandatory minicamp practice of the spring. "Drafting a running back showed that they still think I can perform at a high level and lead this team and be a successful quarterback in this league."

Manning, 37, is coming off a season in which he threw 19 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions while the Giants finished 3-13.

With a new coach, new general manager and the No. 2 pick, this could've been a spot where the Giants moved on from the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. But they didn't, and general manager Dave Gettleman, coach Pat Shurmur and ownership have been bullish on the franchise signal-caller.

"We can win with him," Mara said recently at a Giants Town Hall. "Objectively, Dave and Pat both said he can still play."

Gettleman has insisted that last year's performance late in the season against the Philadelphia Eagles wasn't a mirage. Shurmur has been impressed by Manning's arm and physical state, even going as far as calling him the fittest 37-year-old he's ever seen.

"I don't know. I was expecting to see a guy that was a two-time Super Bowl winner, and so I guess -- I'm always surprised at how smart he is and at how things, I don't want to say come easy to him because he studies, but he has a great feel for the game," Shurmur said. "And that great feel for the game is backed up by a heck of a lot of work, and so when you have that combination, a guy that can really see the game and then a guy that really works at it, then I think the sky is the limit."

That's the same term Barkley used for the Giants' offense, which should be improved from last year, when they were ravaged by injury and finished with the second-fewest points in the league. They averaged 13.6 points per game when Odell Beckham Jr. either played a limited number of snaps or was injured.

But Beckham is back and the Giants added Barkley, who many believe can be a generational player, to a mix that also includes wide receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram. It's a dangerous group of weapons at Manning's disposal, working around what is expected to be an improved offensive line.

It leaves reason for the Giants to be optimistic about their offense, led by Manning.

"It can be a special year; every year can be a special year," Manning said. "It's just a matter of how guys play on Sunday, how they deal. There's always gonna be ups and down throughout the season. It's just -- can guys keep it about the team, and keep it together, and stay committed for 16 weeks, 17 weeks and then going in the playoffs?

"So I think it's a good crew of guys; and now it's just, how hard can we work, how committed can we be, and putting this all together and finding ways to win together."