The Giants have never wanted to worry about what life would be like without Eli Manning. But after Ryan Nassib's performance on Friday night, it looked like maybe they should.
Given a rare chance to start in Manning's place, Nassib, the Giants' primary backup, didn't exactly inspire any confidence in his ability to fill the starter's shoes. After a strong first drive, he ended up giving an erratic and sloppy performance, completing just 7 of 15 passes for only 75 yards, throwing two interceptions and losing one fumble in the Giants' 27-10, preseason-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins.
The fourth-year pro has had far better preseason performances before - in fact he had never thrown an NFL interception before Friday night. But he looked like he took a step back as he began what might be his final season with the Giants. His showing certainly didn't impress his new head coach.
"I think overall as an offense, Ryan was right in line with everyone else tonight," Ben McAdoo said. "It was a sloppy performance. It was not what we're looking for."
It wasn't even close, all things considered. In an unusually extended evaluation that lasted into the fourth quarter, Nassib surprisingly looked like he was lacking poise. Sure, it didn't help that he didn't have Odell Beckham to throw to, or that the first-team offensive line was out after the second drive. But that doesn't matter because this was his opportunity to prove to everyone that he could do Manning's job if he had to.
Instead, to go with his two interceptions - both on underthrown deep passes -- Nassib also had two fumbled snaps (he recovered both) and lost a fumble on a strip sack that set up a Dolphins touchdown. As the game went on, he seemed to get worse.
"He was playing a little bit better with the first offensive line in there," McAdoo said. "Then we started getting a little bit of pressure and some throws were coming up short."
Unfortunately for Nassib, he has no leeway for that to happen. As he said last week, as he enters the final year of his contract, every opportunity he has is like a job interview for someone. It's not just to convince McAdoo that he's a capable backup. His performances are his resume to convince some time to hire him next year.
And these preseason games are his only opportunities. He can't afford to let any slip by.
"I'm just hungry [now] to get to the next practice," Nassib said. "I'm hungry to get out there and get another opportunity to improve, and take what happened tonight and learn from it and work on it to get better."
He will get another chance, of course. McAdoo had promised that Nassib would play a lot this summer. And the coach delivered on that promise quickly when he decided to hold his 35-year-old quarterback out of the preseason opener - a terrific decision given that the 15 snaps Manning likely would've played figured to mean far more to Nassib.
And after an hour-long delay due to a severe storm and lightning near the Meadowlands, Nassib actually started strong. He completed 3 of his first 4 passes for 35 yards on his opening drive - although 24 of those came on a diving catch by rookie receiver Sterling Shepard - and led the Giants to a touchdown and a quick, 7-0 lead.
But after that, nothing seemed to go his way.
"Obviously whenever the offense stalls or you turn the ball over it's extremely frustrating," Nassib said. "But that's when you kind of need to bounce back and rally."
On Friday night he never did, but this won't be enough for McAdoo to write him off. But the 26-year-old fourth-round pick - of whom Giants GM Jerry Reese famously said "If he never plays, that would be great" - can't afford to not take advantages of these opportunities.
The preseason has to be his showcase. He's thrown just 10 passes in his three regular seasons. And considering Manning has started 194 straight games for the Giants (including the playoffs) since he won the starting job back in 2004, it doesn't seem likely that Nassib will be throwing many more regular-season passes any time soon.
Certainly, after the way he performed Friday night, that's everybody's hope, because at the moment nobody would feel comfortable if the unthinkable happened and Nassib had to replace Manning in a game. He's got three more preseason games to rebuild that confidence, to prove to the Giants and everyone that he'd be able to keep the Giants' season afloat.
Maybe it'll never come to that. With Manning, it never has. But at the moment, the Giants have to be at least a little worried about what will happen if their worst nightmare comes true.