Look, I know you’re probably tired of reading about the Giants’ decision to bench Eli Manning. I know Mike Francesa, Philip Rivers, fellow Daily Campus writer Josh Buser and countless others have all well-expressed their complete astonishment and frustration. I understand I’m just beating a dead horse here—because at this point, that’s essentially what the Giants organization is—but what kind of fan would I be if I didn’t weigh in?
When I first saw the headline that Eli’s streak of 210 consecutive games would be snapped, I was honestly unfazed. The Giants are in full-out tank mode, and the streak is really nothing more than a nice little statistic to appreciate an otherwise-perpetually-ridiculed quarterback.
I assumed, like any fan with a functioning brain, that the decision was made with the future in mind. I assumed that Eli would be rested—not so much “benched”—in favor of Davis Webb, a quarterback who the Giants drafted back in April. I assumed the Giants were simply taking a “see what we have” approach to Webb, and that Eli would be restored as the starter before long.
In other words, I assumed that the Giants organization had the basic foresight and decision-making abilities of a 12-year-old child. Apparently, I gave them too much credit.
The rapidly-approaching 2018 draft will be a huge one for the New York Giants. Rarely has the team had such a high pick in recent years, and rarely has there been such a need for talent across the board. And of course, with Eli’s career winding down, the Giants have a momentous decision to make: Do they draft a quarterback, likely USC’s Sam Darnold or UCLA’s Josh Rosen, to take his place? If the Giants are gearing up for a playoff run next year with a healthy roster, this may be their best chance to add a highly-touted quarterback.
Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to start Webb in these final meaningless games. Are there signs of a potentially-great quarterback down the line, or do we need to invest our first-round pick in an upgrade?
What the Giants had to do in this situation was really quite simple. They had to announce the decision to start Webb, emphasizing that it’s a momentary change to give him a chance in the pros. They had to stress it is not a “benching,” and thus avoid disrespecting one of the greatest players in franchise history. And they had to stand by Eli, and clarify that he would be the starter once again next season.
The Giants did none of these things. The word “bench” was never uttered, but that’s exactly what it was: Head coach Ben McAdoo explained that sitting Eli put the Giants in a better position to win football games, while saying nothing about his future. Delusional.
And worst of all, Davis Webb is not the starter. Yes, McAdoo said that Webb will see some playing time this season, but the whole idea of breaking Eli’s streak was to give the rookie a shot. Instead, and I still can’t believe I’m writing these words, the Giants benched Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith. Geno. Smith.
Who really knows what the Giants have in Webb. But Geno? The entire NFL (Giants organization excluded I guess) already knows what Geno Smith is. He’s a joke of a quarterback who makes far too many idiotic decisions to ever even come close to competing for a starting job. He is a laughing stock, deservedly, of the entire league. Harsh? Yes. But accurate? Also yes.
I’m not going to bother pulling in stats or numbers, anyone with eyes can see Eli is a far better quarterback than Geno Smith. I think it’s pretty obvious, especially given the reactions of current and former players, that the decision is a terrible one. But the question is: who pays the price?
That’s difficult to answer, mainly because no one really knows where this inexplicable decision originated. Was it McAdoo, in a desperate last-ditch attempt to save a job he’s already lost? Was it GM Jerry Reese in just the latest of an endless string of horrible leadership? Or, as his comments yesterday seem to suggest, did it come down from owner John Mara, and he’s more misguided than any of us realized?
To be honest, I was still in support of McAdoo up until a couple of weeks ago. Just as Eli has been excessively blamed for the team’s offensive struggles in the past two seasons, I thought McAdoo—at least once he finally relinquished play-calling duties—shouldered more blame than he deserved.
This, however, certainly ends McAdoo’s tenure as head coach. He has lost the support of his fanbase, his employers, and perhaps most tellingly of all, the locker room. But Mara cannot allow McAdoo to take the fall for everyone. He has lost the right to coach, but he is not alone.
Jerry Reese has to go. I’ve been a proponent of this for years, and while his drafting has done some wonders in recent years (see Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins), he is simply an ineffective and at times clueless GM. There’s no doubt in my mind that Reese was deeply involved in the decision to bench Manning, and I can only hope it’s the nail in the coffin for him.
As for Mara, I don’t think he’s going anywhere, but it’s unfair for him to say he’s “embarrassed” about how the situation was handled. His refusal to make front office changes is largely why the Giants are the catastrophe that they’ve become.
It’s not too long ago that the Giants were serious Super Bowl contenders this year. And now, here we are, discussing that a perfectly healthy Eli Manning may have played his final game in a Big Blue uniform, pushed out by someone whose career has been epitomized by a locker room fight that resulted in a broken jaw. It’s a disgraceful situation.
I really want to see Eli back next year, starting at quarterback for the Giants. But perhaps he’d be better off somewhere else, because this franchise is crumbling before our eyes, and he deserves much better.
Andrew Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at @asmor24.