It’s the end of the Eli era in New York. And as disheartening as it is, it’s undoubtedly the right decision for the Giants.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I wanted the Giants to do for the quarterback position this season. I knew they were going to be bad, like, really, really bad, but that still left options on the table at signal caller.
The Giants’ inevitable ineptitude this season essentially left the team with two options: Option one, give him the Dirk treatment and allow him to ride out one last season. He goes out as the starter instead of disgraced benchwarmer, and the franchise politely suggests that he let the young guy take over after the season’s end. Or, option two, insert Daniel Jones early in the season and get him some meaningful reps in an otherwise meaningless season.
Going halfway—letting Eli play a good chunk of the season before letting Jones take over—would be nonsensical. You either give Eli a farewell season or give Jones a full rookie one.
My heart wanted the former. I’m not going to argue that Eli Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. But he is a future Hall-of-Famer, a two-time Super Bowl MVP and the class-act, goofy face of the franchise since I became a Giants fan. To bench him after two ugly losses feels like a slap in the face to everything he has brought the franchise.
If Sunday’s loss to the Bills is the last time Eli takes the field in a Giants uniform, it’s a brutally painful way for his New York tenure, or possibly his career, to come to a close.
But sports decisions often require us to turn our emotions off. And emotions aside, the decision to start Jones over Manning next week is the right decision. It’s a lost season anyway; you might as well get at least one positive out of it. Providing Jones with substantial playing time, even with essentially zero talent surrounding him, is worthwhile. Jones may not be the Giants’ quarterback of the future, but you at least have to give him a chance to prove himself.
“I’m not dying, and the season’s not over,” Manning said on Wednesday. “So there’s a lot to be positive about, a lot to be grateful for, and so I just gotta accept my new role and make the best of it.”
Does that not just break your heart?
However, there’s certainly potential in this DJ guy. This isn’t the bench-Eli-for-Geno-Smith idiocy from two seasons ago. Jones looked phenomenal in the preseason—keyword “preseason”—but, hey, he looked far better than Pat Mahomes did in his rookie preseason. Is Daniel Jones the next Mahomes? There’s a chance.
It’s also worth noting that Jones has turned from laughing stock to fan favorite faster than Ben McAdoo did the reverse. He was booed viciously on draft night, now he’s seemingly got the entire Giants fanbase—and perhaps the majority of NFL fans—behind him. It doesn’t hurt that his mannerisms, his playstyle, even his dang face look a whole lot like the guy he’s replacing, the guy who led the team to a couple of championships.
Fan support may not seem like much, but that paired with his preseason success should hopefully provide plenty of confidence—confidence he’ll certainly need when he finds himself trailing by double digits in basically every game he plays.
Benching Eli hurts. For all the bonehead interceptions he’s thrown, for all the fumbles and complete lack of mobility, for all the viral sideline expressions, he’s been at the center of some of the most cherished sports memories of my life.
But like any sport, football is a business, a business that Dave Gettleman and the Giants organization are running into the ground in spectacular fashion. Considering what Eli has meant to the franchise, this move feels like a punch in the gut. But handing the reins to Jones is a punch in the right direction.
Andrew Morrison is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.