This is huge news in the world of football. The New York Giants are benching franchise quarterback and two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning for Geno Smith.
“Geno will start this week,” Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said. “Over the last five games, we will take a look at Geno, and we will also give Davis [Webb] an opportunity.”
This is incredible. The Giants offense has been destroyed by injuries, with Eli losing his top two receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, along with their #4 receiver Dwayne Harris. The Giants’ #3 receiver Sterling Shepard has missed time, too, while the offensive line has started eight different combinations due to injuries over just 11 games.
That’s a tough scenario for any quarterback to play with and it’s not like Eli’s playing any worse this year than he was last season, when the Giants were 11-5 and in the playoffs. He’s always been a roughly-average quarterback, apart from his 2009 and 2011 seasons, and his postseason runs in 2007 and 2011. This year is no different.
It’s an end of an era for Eli in New York and it represents the end of a streak of 221 consecutive starts for Manning, the 10th longest in NFL history. For his part, Manning is handling this awkward time with grace and understanding.
“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.”
“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 added. “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.”
Manning ranks in the top 10 of most career quarterback marks, including attempts, completions, passing touchdowns, and passing yards. He’s likely destined for the Hall of Fame on the back of his two postseason runs that ended in victory over the New England Patriots in 2007 and 2011. This is a big moment in football history and could signify that Manning will be playing his average-level football for another team in 2018 (how about with his former coach Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville with the Jaguars?).
This end of an era discussion is important for one player on the Patriots in particular, the man that lost to Manning in both of those Super Bowls: Tom Brady.
Brady is busy shrugging off Father Time in the pocket and is still playing like the best quarterback in the NFL. He’s outlasted his back-ups, from Brian Hoyer to Ryan Mallett to Jimmy Garoppolo to Jacoby Brissett and back, again, to Hoyer. He’s still the best quarterback on the planet.
And you can be certain that Brady is watching what is taking place in New York and telling himself to commit even more to excellence, because if a two-time Super Bowl champion and face of the franchise can get benched for playing poorly, the same can happen to Brady.
We saw that take place in 2013, when the Patriots suffered a rash of injuries and turnover that led to Brady’s worst season in the NFL. The Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo the following offseason and Brady clawed his way back to the top of the NFL by improving every facet of his game with each subsequent season.
Brady has outlasted his peers as a premier quarterback and he’s starting to outlast his juniors. Whatever happens with Eli in New York, just know that Brady is watching- and it will only make him stronger.