By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Things have gotten so bad for the New York Giants that the starting quarterback and face of the franchise has decided he’d rather not play.
That’s a slight misrepresentation of the truth … but only by a small margin.
Yes, when the Giants take the field on Sunday in Oakland, Eli Manning will not be the quarterback. Instead, it will be Geno Smith taking snaps, with rookie Davis Webb serving as the primary backup.
When it happens, it will end Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive games started, the second-longest such streak in NFL history, behind Brett Favre’s 297.
And what’s most interesting about the development is that even though head coach Ben McAdoo and his staff wanted to see the “younger” quarterback in action (Smith is 27), the coach still gave Manning the option of continuing to start games. Manning declined.
“Coach McAdoo told me I could continue to start while Geno and Davis are given an opportunity to play,” Manning said, per the team’s official website. “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. Like I always have, I will be ready to play if and when I am needed. I will help Geno and Davis prepare to play as well as they possibly can.”
At 2-9, the Giants have entered “player evaluation” mode … which some people could also read as “get the best possible draft pick” mode, depending on one’s outlook on football matters. After McAdoo took over for Tom Coughlin, the Giants went 11-5 and made the playoffs last year. In 2017, they are circling the drain in 2017, and they sit two games ahead of Cleveland for the NFL’s worst record and one game ahead of San Francisco for the second-worst record. Three teams sit just ahead of New York at 3-8, thus increasing the importance of
tanking to get a draft pick the Giants entering “player evaluation” mode.
“Our number one priority every week is to go win a game, but we owe it to the organization to get an evaluation of everybody on the roster, and that includes at the quarterback position,” McAdoo said. “I’ll say it again, I have the utmost respect for Eli and everything he has done for this organization throughout his career. He is the consummate professional. He doesn’t like the position we are in, and neither do any of us. Eli has had to deal with a lot this season. Through it all, he has done everything we have asked of him in getting that unit ready to play. He has been steady, just like he has always been.”
Manning has started every game for the Giants since the middle of the 2004 season. From the sound of Manning’s comment, it sounds as though McAdoo only offered the opportunity to start the game, maybe play a series or two, and then head to the bench. So the story being sold as “Manning quits on Giants” will be more than a little bit inaccurate.
“You start [while] knowing you’re going to come out of a game to keep a streak alive maybe? That’s not what it’s about. It’s not a preseason game,” Manning said in the locker room after the news broke. “That’s not fair, that’s not fair to me, not fair to Geno. That’s not how you play. You play to win. When you’re named the starting quarterback, you think it’s your job to go and win the football game. When you know you’re just going to play a little bit, I didn’t want to … I didn’t feel that was the right way to play.”
“Start of this week, I was going to start the first half and Geno was going to start the second half. Eventually they were going to start working in Davis. I thought I was just starting and playing to keep a streak alive, and I didn’t think that’s the right thing,” Manning added. “That’s your job. You’re the starting quarterback, your job is to go out there and win the football game. And when that’s not the case, you’re just going out there to play, knowing you’re not going to finish the game. I just didn’t see that being the right thing.”
Things are as bad as can be for the G-Men. A quick Google News search brings up results like “Humiliating for Giants, Cowboys that matchup booted to 1 p.m.” regarding the divisional matchup getting moved out of a national window, or “Giants haven’t scored 30 points during Ben McAdoo era” regarding the team’s utter futility in spite of the head coach’s massive card of play calls.
Manning has just 14 touchdowns this year, compared to seven interceptions. His 84.1 passer rating is his second-worst such mark in the last decade, and it was rumored last offseason that the 2017 season could be Manning’s final one in New York.
If it is the final Giants season for the two-time Super Bowl MVP, it’s going to end in rather lackluster fashion.