There is really only one defensible explanation for taking any playing time away from Eli Manning this season, much less not having him start games at quarterback for the New York Giants. That would be get an in-game look at rookie third-round pick Davis Webb before the 2018 NFL Draft.
So, why is Geno Smith going to be the answer to the “who was the starting quarterback for the Giants when Eli Manning’s 210-game consecutive start streak ended?” trivia question is asked years from now?
It’s simple — Webb is not currently prepared to play.
Giants’ quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti said less than two weeks ago that “there’s no hurry” to play Webb. He added at the time that the rookie’s routine had not changed and that the only practice snaps Webb was receiving were splitting scout team responsibilities with Smith.
So, with no real practice reps running the Giants’ offense for months now, Webb can’t be expected to be ready to play Sunday vs. the Oakland Raiders.
You have to believe, though, that this could well be a one-and-done start for Smith, with Webb taking over Week 14 against the Dallas Cowboys.
“It’s my responsibility for the organization to make sure we take a look at Geno and at some point take a look at Davis (Webb) and give them the opportunity to show what they can do heading into next year,” McAdoo said in explaining the decision to bench Manning.
Webb on Tuesday called Manning “the best teammate that I’ve ever had in my short football career.”
Can he fill Manning’s shoes? The Giants hope to have a somewhat clearer idea of the answer before this season ends.
Webb was asked on Tuesday to identify the biggest lesson he has learned from Manning. He pointed to Manning’s classy handling of the benching.
“Today, today was pretty big. The way he handled himself, the way he handled himself in front of his teammates, myself and Geno included, he was first class. He was very supportive, he’s ready to help us win a game,” Webb said. “There’s so many things that I can talk about and we don’t have enough time for that. I’ve learned something from him every day and I’ve really written them down and I’ve really taken upon myself to kind of – I’ve always kind of idolized Eli and there’s so many quarterbacks I watched growing up, but to kind of be his teammate and see how he does every single day. His routine didn’t change today and he’s a heck of a teammate, he’s the best quarterback in this franchise’s history.”
After four less-than-successful years with the New York Jets, Smith was brought to the Giants not necessarily to be the quarterback of the future, but to be a safety net in the event of disaster. Taking over from a healthy Manning wasn’t part of the plan.
Smith, 27, justifiable admitted that he was “excited” about what really amounts to an opportunity to re-launch a stalled career.
“You can only prove it on the field. There’s no talk that can be said,” Smith said. “There’s nothing I can say in the media that will change things. The only way that I can improve my current situation or any situation towards the future is to play well.”
Smith said he knows Manning is “hurting.”
“I’ve been through it and I wasn’t a 10-year starter,” Smith said. “It hurt me the same way, so I know what it’s like and I know it’s tough and I just always continue to reiterate to him that I’m in his corner and I’ve said that from day one and he said the same thing to me. That means a lot.”
Smith said players who approached him when they found out he would start “were kind of fired up.”
“Guys are giving me hugs, handshakes and I think guys have witnessed my story from afar just seeing how things have kind of played out. So, I think they’re looking forward to that part of it. They’ve seen me practice. They’ve seen me get better throughout the year and I think they’re really eager to get to work during the week and try and go out there and get a victory,” Smith said.