As the NFL reported earlier this week, Eli Manning is back to being a bench warmer for the first time in nearly 14 years. The switch ends Manning's streak of 210 consecutive regular-season starts, the second-longest streak by a QB in NFL history, behind Brett Favre (297).
Eli Manning has taken the surprising demotion like the professional that he is. He said that he’s disappointed but happy to do what’s best for the team. He’ll be there for the Giants if and when they need him going forward.
The problem is— why haven’t the Giants been there for Eli Manning?
At 2-9, the Giants are firmly looking at next year already. Embattled head coach Ben McAdoo is making the change to, apparently, test out what other weapons the Giants could use next year. This line of explanation fails, though, when they announced they would start Geno Smith, and rookie Davis Webb “is expected” to play over the next few games. Instead, this reeks of a last-ditch effort by McAdoo to ally himself with a QB of the future, thus perhaps sparing himself from the guillotine this season’s end. If that is also the case, it hints that McAdoo doesn’t feel Webb would leave that positive impression, and so Smith is his last best card to play.
Manning’s former coach, Tom Coughlin, took a strong, though somewhat reserved stance on the demotion.
Tom Coughlin on @1010XL asked about Eli Manning: "Surprised is not the word. My sentiments are totally with Eli Manning. ... He's a class act, a two-time Super Bowl champ, one of the finest, most humble men in that locker room. ... I was very upset about when I heard that."— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 28, 2017
However, this is also an open door for Philip Rivers to make up some lost ground on Eli’s record (10th, all time). He’ll have the longest active streak of consecutive games at 186 this Sunday. Jason Witten is the next closest, at 172.
Instead of cheering, Rivers was understandably perturbed by this news. Philip did not mince words in any way, shape, or form.
Philip Rivers, on the Giants benching Eli Manning: "I honestly thought it was pathetic, really. ... I feel like he's earned the opportunity to finish it off, finish off these last five weeks."— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) November 29, 2017
“Pathetic” is a wonderfully succinct way to put into words this special form of dysfunction. The Giants are going nowhere, their head coach and others are almost certainly going to be shown the door, and the fans have endured a terrible product this season. Eli Manning has won them two come-from-behind Super Bowls, and he has served his tenure with grace. He has not been good this season, but he is not the primary reason for their folly. Not letting Eli serve out the year and leave on his own terms (for so little team reward, at least) is a form of treachery rarely shown so raw.
The Giants might be making a mistake in pulling the rug out from their long-time QB. As Philip Rivers added to the LA Times after a Thanksgiving drumming of the Cowboys:
“I’d argue with some who’ve said I haven’t played as well the last couple of years. In some ways, I haven’t. In some ways I have. That might add to it too,” Rivers said with a grin. “This was a little bit of ‘Not so fast. …Hold on. Don’t try to run me off yet.’ ”
A little bench pressure can help a QB resuscitate their career. The crucial element to that, however, is the belief and support of the coaching staff. After the exact same 0-4 start to the 2017 season, we have seen how fates can change with a little support and competent coaching. The Giants are looking in the wrong direction to right their ship.
-Jason “They’re Manning all the wrong turrets” Michaels