Eli Manning will see his consecutive start streak end at 210 games on Sunday when Geno Smith starts at quarterback against the Oakland Raiders, the team announced on Tuesday afternoon. Coach Ben McAdoo also announced that rookie Davis Webb will get some playing time before the season ends.
“Geno will start this week,” McAdoo said. “Over the last five games, we will take a look at Geno, and we will also give Davis an opportunity.”
Manning has started every game at quarterback for the Giants since Nov. 21, 2004, when then-coach Tom Coughlin inserted him into the lineup in place of Kurt Warner. His streak is the second-longest of all time among quarterbacks, behind only Brett Favre at 297 games.
In a prepared statement released by the team, Manning revealed that McAdoo had given him the option to start Sunday, but that he had chosen not to.
“Coach McAdoo told me I could continue to start while Geno and Davis are given an opportunity to play,” Manning said. “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.”
This marks, quite obviously, a seismic shift in the direction of the franchise.
The Giants are already eliminated from the playoffs at 2-9 and have 19 players on injured reserve. With Manning at 36 and in his 14th season, the Giants are obviously looking ahead.
“This is not the way it should be, but unfortunately, it’s where we are,” McAdoo said. “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. 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.”
It would be hard to believe McAdoo, whose job is in jeopardy, could have made this decision without the approval of GM Jerry Reese and co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.
“This is not a statement about anything other than we are 2-9, and we have to do what is best for the organization moving forward, and that means evaluating every position,” Reese said. “I told Eli this morning that an organization could not ask for any more in a franchise quarterback. He has been that and more. Nobody knows what the future holds, but right now, this is what we think is best for the franchise.”
Couch it however McAdoo, Reese and ownership want, this decision effectively ends Manning’s time as the team’s franchise quarterback. He has two years left on a four-year, $84 million deal with a cap hit of $22.2 million next season and $23.2 million in 2019.
The Giants will say this is not the end for Manning in New York. It is fair, however, to wonder if that is indeed the case.
The Giants are almost certain to have a top five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and many expect them to choose their next franchise quarterback with that selection.
This has to be a bitter pill for Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP who holds most of the franchise’s career passing records and is seventh in NFL history in passing yards.
“I have said it many times, I want to play, I want to compete, I want to be out there for my teammates to help them prepare to win,” Manning said. “I understand that there are tough decisions that have to be made in the best interest of the organization, especially as a season like this winds down. This is one of those tough, uncomfortable decisions.”
The end of the streak, and Manning’s time as the Giants’ undisputed franchise quarterback, had to come to an end eventually. It is, however, sad to see it come under these circumstances.
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