The Eli Manning Era ended with a brief conversation with his coach and then a tweet.
“Daniel Jones has been named starting QB,” the Giants wrote on their official Twitter account, accompanied by a story announcing the change.
It is a day that arrived far sooner than anyone had expected, starting with the Giants themselves. General manager Dave Gettleman had spoken of the “Kansas City model” in hopes that Manning could shepherd the Giants through the 2019 season and hand off to Jones next year, like the Chiefs did in 2017-18 with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes. Team president and co-owner John Mara expressed hope just last month that Jones would never see the field this year, a suggestion that Manning was good enough to reach the playoffs and hold the No. 6 overall pick at bay until 2020.
But two games in – eight quarters of listless offensive football – was enough for coach Pat Shurmur to turn the page on the 38-year-old Manning and go with Jones, who had a terrific preseason but now faces live action and all that goes with it. The learning curve will be steep, starting this weekend in Tampa, when he goes against Todd Bowles’ defense. Jones no doubt will receive a hero’s welcome the following week at MetLife Stadium when he starts his first home game against the Redskins.
Giants fans had clearly grown weary of Manning, who has simply not commanded the passing game as he once did when he was a two-time Super Bowl MVP. Part of that was caused by the natural descent that almost all older quarterbacks not named Tom Brady or Brett Favre experience. But part of it was related to the inadequate talent around him, whether that was a leaky offensive line or, as is currently the case, a group of receivers more suited for practice squad slots and not the big time.
No Odell Beckham Jr., who reminded Giants fans Monday night of his incredible ability with a salient performance in Cleveland’s 23-3 win over the Jets at the same stadium he once electrified. No Sterling Shepard, who was sidelined in Sunday’s 28-14 home loss to the Bills. And no Golden Tate, who is serving a four-game suspension for PEDs.
Manning’s receivers on Sunday: Cody Latimer, who went out with a concussion; Bennie Fowler Jr., Russell Shepard and T.J. Jones, who wasn’t even on an NFL roster until the Giants signed him as an emergency fill-in for Sterling Shepard.
But the Giants also have arguably the best running back in the game in Saquon Barkley, and third-year tight end Evan Engram has emerged as a reliable target. So, rather than flounder any longer with an offense that simply can’t manufacture points – the Giants have a combined 31 points in their first two games – Shurmur has chosen to go with the future and take the lumps that go with playing a rookie quarterback.
“Ultimately, this is a move that I felt was best for this team at this time,” Shurmur said in a story released by the team after the change was announced. “I have said it since I got here, I am very fond of Eli. His work ethic, his preparation, his football intelligence. All those attributes are as good as I have ever seen in a player. And Eli worked as hard as you could ask of anybody to get ready for this season. This move is more about Daniel moving forward than about Eli.”
The move was inevitable, whether it happened today, next week or next month. With Manning unable to consistently move the offense, and with a roster in transition, the time was right to make the change.
It’s Jones’ team.
And it’s the end of the line for Manning, who produced the most storied career of any quarterback in franchise history and gave the Giants two of their most incredible moments in nearly a century’s worth of football.
Two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots, two magnificent postseason runs to get there and two MVP trophies to mark a career that gives him a good chance of getting to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Shurmur said Manning was disappointed but understood.
“He said he would be what he has always been – a good teammate, and continue to prepare to help this team win games,” Shurmur said.
Shurmur is now in survival mode, and how he leads the team over the next 14 games will go a long way toward determining whether he continues as the Giants’ coach moving forward or is given his walking papers after two years. In Shurmur’s mind, it is time to be bold, or be gone.
The best-case scenario is that he forges the kind of alliance with Jones that Tom Coughlin once did with Manning. Coughlin and Manning combined for some of the most successful times in Giants history.
The Giants showed Coughlin the door after the 2015 season, and now it’s Manning’s turn.
Father Time never loses these games, and Manning has finally succumbed after putting together an excellent body of work.
It’s now time to see if the Shurmur-Jones partnership can work.