A few weeks ago, I drew a cartoon based around the silly idea that Giants head coach Ben McAdoo would bench longtime starting quarterback Eli Manning.
But I didn’t actually thing he would go through with it.
McAdoo shocked the sports world on Tuesday when he announced that Geno Smith, who has thrown a total of two incomplete passes all season, will be starting this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Eli was actually offered the opportunity to get token starts to keep his consecutive game streak (210, the second-longest in league history) alive, but turned it down.
Let’s be clear – Eli wasn’t exactly having a stellar season. At 36, his 84.1 passer rating puts him in the middle of the pack in terms of starting quarterbacks, and his total QBR of just 42.7 comes in below Brett Hundley, the often-mocked back-up starting in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
But let’s also be clear that’s not all Eli’s fault. The Giants’ offensive line, as constructed by McAdoo, is a joke, and back in Week 4 Manning lost four wide receivers to injuries, three of whom (Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Harris) are out for the season. His leading receiver this year is rookie tight end Evan Engram, who has cooled off the last two games thanks to some badly-times dropped passes.
The move to start Smith doesn’t really make much sense. After all, he will be a 27-year-old free agent at the end of the season, and barring something miraculous, he hasn’t exactly shown the ability to approve in his 5 years in the league.
At best, the move will cause the Giants will lose the rest of their games and draft Manning’s true successor in the offseason. At worst, it’s like a poison pill that’s been introduced in the locker room that will cause this season to truly spiral out of control for a team that lacks discipline in the first place.
Prior to the move, McAdoo hadn’t exactly endeared himself to the New York sports media move. But after benching Eli, Mike Francesa, the outgoing afternoon host on WFAN, blasted McAdoo as a “fool” and a “desperate guy” clinging to a job he likely will lose at the end of the season.
“You can’t run this clown out of town fast enough. The worst thing that’s ever happened is that Eli Manning had to be associated with you as head coach with the career he’s had here,” Francesa said of McAdoo. “Maybe on your way out, you can take a look at Eli’s rings. That’s the closest you’ll ever get to one too… What a gutless move!”
Francesa was far from alone. Eli’s predecessor, former quarterback and current NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner, unloaded on the entire Giants organization, which he says “has gone sideways.”
“If it was just Eli Manning, and he wasn’t playing well and the rest of the team was there, I’d understand making the change,” Warner wrote on Tuesday. “To me it’s amazing it has come to this for a guy who has really been a model for that organization.”
Another Giants quarterback, CBS Sports analyst Phil Simms, also didn’t like the move, writing on Twitter, “Eli Manning can stand tall and proud and will for the rest of his life for all he has been… Giants fans will never forget him.”
You get the picture.
Last week’s game against Washington could very well be Eli’s last start as the Giants quarterback. The teams Week 17 matchup against Washington in the Meadowlands will almost certainly me the last game McAdoo coaches for Big Blue.
Eli has two Super Bowl rings. McAdoo has two wins. I wonder which will be remembered longer…
Cartoon by Rob Tornoe.
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