With Eli Manning Decision, the Giants Invite Shame


There would have been nothing wrong with the Giants announcing that for the good of the franchise and its future, the team’s recent draft pick Davis Webb would replace Manning in parts of the final five games this year. In time, perhaps, Webb might even start a game or two.

The Giants would need to magnanimously acknowledge that it was time for Manning to watch some football rather than play it. There will be enough lopsided games over the next five weeks in which putting Manning on the sideline would be a prudent move.

It would enable the Giants, most especially, to see what they have in Webb, since they could easily find themselves with a top draft pick next spring and need to determine if they should use it on another young quarterback.

What is rightfully perplexing to fans, and a sign that this team’s troubles reach deeply into the front office, is the decision to make Geno Smith the starter. In a five-year N.F.L. career, he has thrown 28 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions.

Smith’s record as a starting quarterback is 12-18. He has not started a game since October 2016. The Jets, of all teams, could not wait to see Smith leave.

He will take the field when the Giants play the Raiders, still hungry for a playoff spot, on Sunday in Oakland.

Photo

Ben McAdoo, right, sent Manning to the bench in order to give a chance to the team’s other quarterbacks, but he would not commit to having the team’s rookie quarterback, Davis Webb, in uniform on Sunday.

Credit
Ben Margot/Associated Press

As for Webb, the only player worth all this teeth-gnashing, Coach Ben McAdoo would not confirm he would be in uniform this weekend. Webb will eventually be “in the mix,” McAdoo said.

Is this all about getting another look at Smith?

“We’re going to start Geno this week and give him an opportunity to show what he can do,” McAdoo said.

To Giants fans, Manning, a popular, esteemed player, who after being smacked to the ground hundreds of times got back up to start 210 consecutive regular-season games, was besmirched by his churlish bosses.

But what should disturb those fans the most is that the men who made this call, McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese, are still in a position to determine the future of the team.

Or at least they are for now. The Giants’ owners, John Mara and Steve Tisch, who should not escape blame for Tuesday’s fiasco, should be asking themselves whether the handling of Manning is the last clumsy, self-destructive act for McAdoo and Reese.

Because if there is any resounding message that came out of the Giants’ training complex on Tuesday, it was that the Giants are struggling for a coherent vision for the coming seasons.

Mara told reporters on Wednesday not to close the book on Manning’s career, saying, “I don’t think you should be writing his obituary just yet.”

He said he had recently suggested to Reese that it might be time to switch quarterbacks, and he floated the idea of Manning playing in the first halves of games and, if he were playing poorly, substituting him then. But Manning rejected the idea, saying that if Smith was going to play one half, he should just start.

Mara spoke with Manning on Wednesday and called it a “very emotional talk.”

“He is obviously not happy with the decision, but he understands it,” Mara said. “And I told him that, I said my hope here had been that you would continue to play, not only to keep your streak alive but because I was hoping — I didn’t want him to go out like this.

“But I understand his feeling. I respect his decision. He doesn’t want the streak to be tarnished by just getting in for a few series or something,’’ he continued, adding, “He understands at some point we’ve got to look at the other quarterbacks because he’s not going to play forever.”

Still, Mara conceded the change could have been handled differently, without specifying how.

Manning, in brief comments at his locker on Tuesday, fought back tears and admitted, “I don’t have to make sense of it.”

Somebody does.

But it will not be the one man in uniform who for 14 years could reliably be counted for that kind of leadership.

Correction: November 29, 2017

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this column misstated the time of Geno Smith’s last start. It was October 2016, not November 2015. An earlier version also misstated the number of years Davis Webb has been in the N.F.L. This is his first year, not his second year.

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