The New York Giants season has been a lost cause for some time now, but events transpiring this past Tuesday have now created an even more awkward imbalance. After finding themselves at 2-9 on the heels of a 20-10 loss to the Washington Redskins, general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo have decided to bench Eli Manning.
Manning has been the Giants franchise QB for 14 seasons and has made an impressive 210 consecutive starts, which is a team record — it ranks second in the league all time behind only Brett Favre, who made 297. Instead, the Giants will hand over the reigns to another former New York quarterback, Geno Smith, who previously served as a starter for the New York Jets.
“Geno will start this week,” Coach McAdoo said. “Over the last five games, we will take a look at Geno, and we will also give Davis an opportunity.”
The latter he is referring to is rookie Davis Webb, who the Giants took with the 87th pick in this year’s draft. The lone bright spot? Smith will finally become the first African American starter in Giants history, making them the last team to finally start one after Marlin Briscoe became the first 49 years ago in Denver.
Smith will also become the first quarterback to make a start for both the Giants and the Jets in New York. And though this hasn’t been Eli Manning’s worst year statistically, the numbers do fall much lower than the averages for the two-time Super Bowl champion. In his previous game against the ‘Skins on Thanksgiving, he went an underwhelming 13-27 for 113 yards and an interception, but it wasn’t entirely his fault, just as it hasn’t been all season.
WATCH: Eli Manning reacts to the announcement that he will not start on Sunday pic.twitter.com/nQoPEcfTl3
— New York Giants (@Giants) November 28, 2017
The Giants have been plagued by injuries all season long, with key members like receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall out with major injuries. Their offense has been anything but productive for the majority of the season, and the defense has allowed the second most yards of any team in the NFL.
“This is not a statement about anything other than we are 2-9, and we have to do what is best for the organization moving forward, and that means evaluating every position,” Jerry Reese said in a statement. “I told Eli this morning that an organization could not ask for any more in a franchise quarterback. He has been that and more.”
The outcry from the league in reaction to Eli Manning’s benching has been nothing short of deafening. From players to coaches, both current and former, the decision has been deemed questionable.
Although the Giants reportedly offered Manning the opportunity to start before eventually giving way to Smith or Webb in their next game against the Raiders, he declined, mentioning the unfairness of the ability to start only to know you weren’t going to finish the game.
“Coach McAdoo told me I could continue to start while Geno and Davis are given an opportunity to play,” Manning stated in his first interview with reporters. “My feeling is that if you are going to play the other guys, play them. Starting just to keep the streak going and knowing you won’t finish the game and have a chance to win it is pointless to me, and it tarnishes the streak.”
Manning is also probably frustrated with the fact that Geno Smith’s career average passer rating is lower than his has been this season. Smith sports a 72.3 career rating, while Manning’s 84.1 from this season already makes him seem like the better option. Not to mention that benching a two-time Super Bowl winner is unprecedented in itself, especially considering his devotion to the team.
This has sparked reaction from former Giants head coach and current Jacksonville Jaguars executive vice president of football operations, Tom Coughlin. Some have already begun to think that Manning could end up being traded to the Jaguars if all doesn’t work out in the big apple.
“Surprised is not the word,” Coughlin said in a radio interview. “My sentiments are totally with Eli Manning. I love the kid. He is a class act. He is a two-time Super Bowl champ. He is the finest, most humblest young man in that locker room. I haven’t followed the Giants. I know it’s a disappointing year but my thoughts are strictly with Eli. I’m very upset about when I heard that.”
Even Phil Simms, another Giants Super Bowl winning QB, weighed in on the move.
— Phil Simms (@PhilSimmsQB) November 28, 2017
With only five games remaining in the NFL campaign, there’s no changing the Giants’ fate, but the team can reconcile with Manning if they truly want to ensure he’ll finish up his career in New York. After all, this season is shaping up to be the team’s worst since 2003 when the Giants finished 4-12. It was also the year that led to the Giants drafting Manning.