Thoughts on Eli Manning’s Benching

I, like most others, was pretty stunned that the Giants benched Eli Manning. Not because Manning was great, because he wasn’t, but because of the situation. Eli has been the face of the Giants franchise since 2004. Whatever Eli’s shortcomings are as a QB had zero impact on the Giants this season. The Giants were a terrible team from the start. Whether it was reading their press clippings or whatever else they were a mess from day 1. So its not as if Manning was holding them back from the playoffs. Finally who are the Giants really evaluating? They don’t have Manning’s heir on the roster.

The move comes off like a scapegoating move. You have a desperate coach and a desperate general manager looking to find a way to save their job. My assumption is that they both are hoping that one of the younger qbs on the roster is more athletic and capable of running the offense that Ben McAdoo wants run so it doesn’t look like such a mess on Sundays.  That gives them a chance to save their jobs and be given the opportunity to coach a first round draft pick next season.

There are some defending the move as business as usual in the NFL. I agree to some extent. Very rarely do players go out on their own terms. I think it was a given that Eli was done in NY. I said it early in the year that they should have looked for Manning to waive his no trade so they could move on this season. Give him a chance to win and have an easy departure. Legends finish their careers elsewhere or head into retirement when they can’t find a job. But it is rare for these things to play out this way in the middle of a season like this.

There is, in my mind, a big difference between parting ways in February and benching a guy in November. Both are forms of scapegoating but the demotion is a much more public was of doing business and leads to weeks of questions for the QB. QB is different than other positions where guys see their time phased out over the course of the year, and the Giants gave Eli that option which he declined because it would have been awkward, so it’s a big blow when the demotion happens. In February you can either have the nice sendoff and an amicable split or if a bitter split the player often finds a new team and that becomes the story rather than the benching/cutting of the player. I think this made the organization look bad.

In hindsight I dont understand how the team, with such a bad record, could not have gone to him weeks ago and said they were thinking of a QB change and that they were willing to find a trade for Manning if he wanted to do that. There is no reason why this is something that should just have come up now and not before as the Giants were long ago eliminated from any realistic playoff race. That would have really given the Giants and Manning a better out.

What exactlt are the Giants evaluating?  This isn’t the Jets benching Josh McCown, a journeyman with not even a full year as a starter with the team. Yes for teams like that you throw younger guys in there just to get a look at them, but this should be different. Manning is not being replaced by Carson Wentz. He’s being replaced by Geno Smith and possibly Davis Webb. Smith is a 5th year pro who was a bust with the Jets and Webb is a 3rd round draft pick. In the preseason Smith had to win a competition to be backup and Webb was the 4th string guy.

Right now the Giants have the 3rd pick in the draft. They should be a lock for top 7. You don’t get many chances like this in the NFL and the odds are strong they will draft a QB. Unless Smith or Webb kicks them out of the top 10 there is no way that the Giants are going to see anything over the next 5 games that alters the course of drafting a QB. It would be insane if the front office watched these few games and decided “Genos good, lets draft a cornerback instead with the 3”.

Smith may very well be able to reignite his NFL career somewhere, but quite frankly these are auditions for future backup roster spots. Who should the Giants be more comfortable with as a number 2/potential stopgap in 2018?  Smith or Webb. You don’t bench an Eli Manning for that kind of evaluation. Its just not the way you should run the organization.

I’m genuinely surprised ownership allowed this to occur unless they just want this to be the final nail in the coaches coffin, but McAdoo was already publicly considered the worst thing about the Giants so I’m not sure how much worse the fanbase could have looked at him. It was done so cold, like a quick Tuesday news dump that it just looks like nobody even thought of the PR aspect of the move.

What’s a bit ironic in all this is that Eli spent so much of his career battling critics in NY and almost every one of them are now coming to his. His old teammates that lived through the Tiki Barber teardowns and the fanbase saying Eli wasn’t good enough are all out in force showing him support via social media. Ive never seen anything to this level before. It shows how bad the Giants handled this because everyone knows there is no logical reason for what they just did. All they had to do was wait 5 more games and then plan a nice press conference after the Super Bowl thanking Eli and wishing him well in 2018 as they moved forward. Instead they turned almost everyone against the team. The Giants are generally considered the “class” organization in New York. They fell way short this week of that distinction.

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @jason_otc