There are moments that make and break a franchise. This is one of them.
The New York Giants, led by Ben McAdoo (HC) and Jerry Reese (GM), have decided to bench Eli Manning before next week’s game. Eli Manning is the active leader in consecutive starts at QB with 210, second all time only to Brett Favre at 297. He has started every game with the Giants since being drafted first overall in 2004. That will end next week. Eli also ranks 7th all time in passing yards with 50,625 and 7th all time in touchdown passes with 334. Oh, and he also won two Super Bowls for the Giants and was MVP of both. He’s one of eight Quarterbacks in NFL history that have won two Super Bowls. And he’s being benched for Geno Smith, a former New York Jet who once missed almost an entire season with a fractured jaw after being punched in the face during practice.
It’s true that the NFL is a business and a brutal one at that, and getting rid of star players at the end of their careers is often ugly. But there’s absolutely zero reason this had to happen the way it did.
When Peyton Manning left the Colts, he had missed a year due to injury, the team was in abysmal shape, the greatest QB since Peyton himself was going to be available to be drafted, the team was going through a massive organizational overhaul, and Peyton’s football future was in serious doubt due to his injury. When Favre left the Packers, it was because he had initially announced retirement and the team had wanted to move on with Aaron Rodgers, a guy they’d been grooming to start for 3 years. They only said no to Favre after he flip-flopped and decided he in fact wasn’t ready for retirement. When Romo left the Cowboys, he too had serious injury questions, and the Cowboys had struck gold with Dak Prescott, their fourth round pick who had ended up being a superstar and leading the Cowboys to the playoffs while Romo was injured.
All these situations were sad and harsh, but there were extenuating circumstances and reasoning behind them that made them maybe not justified, but understandable. What the hell do the Giants have to hang their hat on for this decision? No, Eli hasn’t been playing great. Yes, he’s 36 years old. But the Giants barely have a team out there as there have been so many injuries. There are very few Quarterbacks that would succeed in this situation. And who are you benching him for? Geno Smith? He’s been in this league since 2013. He has a track record. We know who he is, and it’s not good. Yes, he’s talented, but he’s been a backup QB for the majority of his career, and that’s not going to change, certainly not with this team. Then you have the third round rookie Davis Webb, who quite frankly, I don’t know much about, but I have trouble believing he’s the answer. It’s not like we need to see who this guy is. We’re 2-9, we’re going to have a top pick in the draft in what will be a very deep QB class. If we’re going to move on from Eli, odds are it will be for a guy we draft, not for Davis Webb.
And who are these coaches benching Eli? Ben McAdoo has been a head coach in the NFL for two years. That’s it!! This year he’s been nothing short of awful, both on the field and off it. We went to the playoffs last year despite an uncreative and non-productive offense (his supposed specialty) because we had a good defense and won a lot of close games. This year he sat idly by and made no adjustments as our team continued to descend further into oblivion, and he eventually lost his team as we had to suspend both our corners for conduct issues. He calls plays like a robot, his offense sucks and is easy to plan for, he can’t manage a team, and he shows all the emptiness and arrogance of Bill Belichick at a press conference–except he doesn’t have the track record or football acumen to back it up, and his players don’t respect him. And it’s not like he had a great resume before becoming a head coach either. Then there’s Jerry Reese, our shitshow General Manager who probably should have been gone years ago. He had that one good offseason when his head was on the chopping block where he got Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and Rodgers-Cromartie. But definitely Jenkins and possibly DRC will be gone soon. Reese hit on Beckham (even though he’s a nutcase), hit on JPP, and had some good drafts wayyy back when, but outside of that he continually ignores positions of need, drafts flawed and questionable players, and refuses to make any big time moves. And like McAdoo, he too is an arrogant prick who refuses to take any responsibility.
These are the two men that benched the guy who’s been the face of our franchise for over a decade. For arguably no reason. It’s sickening, disrespectful, and classless. Eli is worth so much more to the NFL in the respect that he commands than those two combined will ever be. And what about our owner, John Mara? The Giants have long been considered one of the cornerstone franchises and ownerships in the NFL, with Mara being one of the good guys, but that may be coming to an end. I started to question Mara with his handling of the Josh Brown domestic abuse case last year, but on the field most have given him the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure there are those who will want to separate Mara from McAdoo and Reese, but I have trouble believing McAdoo and Reese would make this kind of move without Mara’s okay. Make no mistake, this move reflects in an awful way on the entire organization. And it’s not something inconsequential: It’s the end of the road for the most important player in franchise history. That’s why it’s so despicable.
Honestly it’s all sickening. There are ups and downs for every franchise, good times and bad, and star players falling from grace. But this isn’t just an “oops” that can be brushed by the wayside in due time. This will go down in history. This is the best Quarterback in franchise history, a guy who’s been nothing but a class act, that you benched for no reason for a garbage backup from a nobody coach in the middle of the god damn season. And look, I know Eli’s 36. If you had to move on at the end of the season, I wouldn’t be thrilled, but I’d get it. But benching him now?? As if it’s somehow his fault this sorry ass team can’t even pull themselves together enough to actually put in any effort on Sunday? Heck it was Eli Manning’s pre-game speech that supposedly hyped up the Giants enough to get their second win of the season vs the Chiefs just a few weeks ago. Say what you want about Eli. Has he been a perfect Quarterback? No, far from it. Is he overrated? Is he hall of fame worthy? We can have all those discussions later. But he’s been a consummate pro his whole career (and continues to be, even as he’s being slapped in the face), and he’s done as much for this franchise as anybody. He does not deserve this, and the Giants should be ashamed of themselves. He deserves to at least finish off the season as a Giant. And let me be clear: It’s not just that they’re benching him. It’s that they’re choosing to end his career, and this is how they do it. By throwing him to the curb, by kicking him on the way out the door, and for no apparent reason.
I’ve been a Giants fan since I started following Football. It hasn’t been that long, granted, but I’ve been with them for the highs and the lows. I put my heart into every game. I felt the joy when they hoisted that Lombardi over the Patriots, and I felt the anger when Desean Jackson ran that punt back and ended our season. I was born and bred in New York and I assumed I always would bleed blue.
But this? I’m not going to make any definitive statements, but I’m not sure this is forgivable. If this truly is the end for Eli in New York (which many are saying it is), and this is how the Giants chose to go about it? By benching him in the middle of a lost season for Geno Smith? I honestly might not be able to root for them anymore.
The Giants may be thinking about the future, but I know I speak for all of Big Blue Nation when I say this: Us fans won’t be forgetting this anytime soon.