Column: Giants’ benching of Manning is disgraceful

In this Nov. 23, 2017, file photo, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) walks off the field after a 2010 loss to the Washington Redskins, in an NFL football game in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

In this Nov. 23, 2017, file photo, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) walks off the field after a 2010 loss to the Washington Redskins, in an NFL football game in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Eli Manning has often been the only thing right for the New York Giants since his debut in 2004. Manning has overcome years of poorly-constructed rosters to make the Giants look semi-decent in even their worst years. While he has never been the best statistical quarterback, Manning has led the team to two Super Bowl victories and has started an NFL second-best 210 consecutive games as the face of the franchise.

Head coach Ben McAdoo’s decision to bench Manning for Geno Smith is appalling, embarrassing and disgusting. Manning is one of the best and most respected quarterbacks in the famed history of the New York Giants, and benching him with five games remaining in order to “get an evaluation” of Smith is rock-bottom for a whole season of new lows in New York.

The 2-9 Giants are terrible this year, with injuries and poor offensive line play contributing to a down year for Manning. While McAdoo continues to fail to lead his team, Manning continued to take every snap and be the leader that the Giants needed during the worst season in franchise history.

Manning is a class act that McAdoo and the Giants’ front office don’t deserve. He’s the ideal leader for any franchise, showing the consistency and competitiveness that most other star players wouldn’t have with the Giants. Manning has repeatedly said that in the midst of bad times, he wants to be playing on Sundays and be there for his teammates to try to win games.

McAdoo has now decided to take that away from Manning to get a look at Smith, who has started one game in the past three seasons. Smith is not the Giants’ future at quarterback, and everybody around the NFL, except McAdoo, knows that.

Even if the basis of this decision is to eventually get a look at rookie quarterback Davis Webb before selecting in the top-five of next year’s draft, the Giants made the wrong decision. Webb has close to zero chance at success if he plays this season with a roster that is torn to shreds. Put Webb in now and he immediately loses any confidence in being an NFL quarterback.

Beyond the actual NFL impact of the decision, benching a franchise icon to get a look at a career backup is demoralizing for Manning. The slight perceived gain for the Giants’ organization by starting Smith or Webb does not even come close to the embarrassment of benching the cornerstone of the franchise.

In this Sept. 10, 2017, file photo, New York Giants quarterback Geno Smith (3) throws prior to an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)

In a press conference, McAdoo said multiple times that every week, “The No. 1 goal is to win a football game.” By starting Smith over Manning, McAdoo is disgustingly trying to deflect responsibility from himself by placing undeserved blame on Manning for the Giants’ record this season. This was nothing short of a slap in the face to Manning, a gutless move by a failing head coach, and Manning deserves so much better.

It was tough to watch Manning holding back tears while giving emotional responses to questions from reporters on Tuesday. McAdoo put Manning in an extremely difficult and unnecessary situation, and Manning handled it as brilliantly as he could have.

Manning voiced support for his teammates, Smith and Webb, admitting the difficulty of being benched but saying he would continue to do his job. Manning had the option to extend his consecutive starts streak but told McAdoo that if they want to get a look at the young players, they might as well do it the whole game.

Rather than requesting to be released to play somewhere else or voicing his opinion on the stupidity of McAdoo’s decision, Manning took the high road and did his best to bite his tongue.

I hope Manning finds his way out of this joke of a franchise and can play for another team next year. Manning did so much for so long in New York, and this absurd decision tarnishes his legacy. Former Giants quarterback Kurt Warner said it best in his reaction to Manning’s benching: “Shame on the Giants.”

Rather than blaming your franchise quarterback for all the struggles of the organization, the Giants should have started at the top. Firing McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese is something that needed to be done before Tuesday’s decision, but for the sanity of Giants’ fans and players alike, this has to be the nail in the coffin for the two men at the top of this mess.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.