N.Y. Giants finally pull the plug on ‘The Eli Manning Era’
By: Robert Foreman
After another 0-2 start, the New York Giants finally decided to bench veteran quarterback Eli Manning. Following an ugly loss to the Buffalo Bills, head coach Pat Shurmur assured the media, and New York Giants’ fans, that Manning, 38, was still going to remain the starting quarterback. However, less than 24 hours later, Shurmur backpedaled and made it clear that the starting job was up in the air. The following day, the Giants made it official that Manning was being benched in favor of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. One can only assume that Shurmur’s head-turning position on the starting quarterback job was influenced by team owner John Mara and general manager Dave Gettleman.
However, few people should be surprised that the Giants finally made a quarterback change. The handwriting was on the wall from the moment the team selected Jones with the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft. Additionally, Manning was entering the final year of his contract and the Giants made no move to offer him another extension. While Mara made it clear over the summer that he hoped that Jones would never see the field this year, it was obvious that Manning was likely going to be on a short leash in 2019. That leash turned out to be shorter than anyone suspected with the team benching the veteran quarterback after only two games.
Simply put, the Giants, one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, have been a hot mess in recent years. Since 2013, the team has only had a winning record once and that was in 2016 when they went 11-5. They’ve only made the playoffs once during that same time period and that was in 2016, as well. The numerous losing seasons have seen the Giants force out head coach Tom Coughlin, who helped them win two Super Bowls, fire head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese, and rotate out other coaching staff and players.
However, the one person that seemed virtually immune to the changes was Manning. In 2017, the Giants benched Manning for one game in favor of former Jets’ quarterback Geno Smith and to say that it was a disaster would be an understatement. Not only did the benching end Manning’s 13-year consecutive start streak at 210, but benching him in favor of Smith was seen as a smack in the face to the 2-time Super Bowl MVP. The public backlash was so severe that it forced the team to reinstate Manning and fire McAdoo and Reese before the end of the 2017 season.
Now, while Manning is by no means the only reason for the Giants’ issues, he has been a part of the problem. The Giants had been holding coaches, front office personnel and other players accountable for the team’s woes in recent years, but not Manning. While the Giants had often failed to surround Manning with good personnel, especially on the offensive line, the veteran quarterback’s play had been showing signs of some decline. Yet, the Giants continued to try and build their offense around him despite limited returns. Perhaps, they hoped that Manning had one more magical Super Bowl run left in him. Or maybe they just didn’t want to acknowledge that Manning’s best days were behind him out of loyalty. Whatever the reasons were they obviously don’t apply anymore.
Now, all eyes will turn to Jones to potentially add a spark to a listless Giants’ team. From the moment he was drafted, it seemed as if the Giants were hoping to groom the rookie into Eli’s eventual successor. Perhaps, knowing that Jones was being drafted to eventually replace Manning is what inspired many fans to boo him. However, Jones managed to silence many of his critics with his impressive play during the preseason. Ideally, the best scenario for Jones, 22, would have been to sit on the sidelines his first year and learn behind Manning. Fate clearly had other ideas and now he finds himself set to make his debut as the Giants’ new starting quarterback in a road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Personally, I believe the Giants made the right move by benching Manning. After yet another 0-2 start, which has become par for the course for the Giants, it was time to make a change. Now, the Giants could have avoided the fiasco of having to bench Manning after only two games if they had chosen to have an open QB competition during the preseason and let the best player win the job. Yet, the Giants opted to go into the season with Manning as the anointed starter and that move has now blown up in their faces. But what’s done is done, and now ‘The Daniel Jones Era’ officially begins.
But as a new era dawns, we can’t forget to acknowledge the era that is ending with Manning. The son of former quarterback Archie Manning, and the brother of future Hall of Famer, Peyton, Manning helped the Giants make an improbable Super Bowl run in 2007 that ended the New England Patriots’ quest for a perfect season. Four years later, Manning and the Giants returned to the Super Bowl and thwarted the Patriots again. Yet, those two title runs have become a distant memory in recent years as the Giants have continued to flounder.
Now, it remains a mystery whether we will ever see Manning on the field playing quarterback for the Giants again. However, if his time in New York is truly over there should be no doubt that he has more than earned his place in Giants’ history and lore. Regardless of whether he was winning championships, enduring losing seasons or being benched, Manning has always carried himself with class and grace. So, whatever the future holds for him, Manning will always be a Giant in every way that matters.