For the better part of 14 years, Eli Manning has been the best thing about the Giants.
Championship quarterback. Unparalleled leader. Class act on and off the field. About as perfect a player as you could ever want to be the face of your franchise.
On Tuesday, the Giants essentially threw that well-earned reputation into the dumpster fire that this season has become. With no chance of making the playoffs, a desperate Ben McAdoo has chosen to bench a quarterback whose team literally has disappeared around him, with injuries leaving mostly journeymen offensive linemen and receivers to play alongside.
McAdoo has bumbled and stumbled his way through a season that started with hope of a Super Bowl run, yet has devolved into one of the most pathetic displays of football this once-proud franchise has ever known. And just when it seemed he couldn’t do much more to render the Giants such an abject failure, he did just that by taking the ball away from Manning and ending one of the most incredible starting streaks in pro sports history.
Manning has been there every game since midway through the 2004 season — a 210-game streak second only to Brett Favre among NFL quarterbacks. But with his coach slogging through a 2-9 season and failing to figure out a way to squeeze any offense out of a team that hired him specifically because of his offensive expertise, Manning will see that streak end under the guise of McAdoo wanting to get a look at Geno Smith and possibly rookie Davis Webb.
What an inexcusable way to treat a two-time Super Bowl MVP who has done more for this franchise than perhaps any other player. He owns just about every Giants passing record there is. He’s the only quarterback good enough to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and he did it twice. He’s one of the most durable players the NFL has ever seen, and his availability on game day is matched only by his loyalty to his teammates and his coaches.
But this coach has betrayed him with such utter incompetence that it boggles the mind. The Giants might very well go in another direction next year at quarterback, and that’s their right. But to throw away a player like Manning at this point in the season, to render him as expendable as some average Joe, is just not right.
Has Manning had his best season? Of course not. Without top receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, with an inconsistent and oft-injured line and with a coach who has been wholly inadequate at the one thing he supposedly was good at, this hasn’t been a fair fight for the quarterback.
McAdoo’s offense was at the heart of the team’s problems last year, but the issues have gotten far worse. McAdoo removed himself as the play-caller, but this is his team and his offense, and he’s the one ultimately responsible for all that has gone wrong. To use the flimsy excuse of evaluating players for next season is the height of hubris for a coach whose arrogance is wholly without achievement.
Manning is far too good a player and leader to have it end like this, and if I were him, I’d demand a trade after the season. He’d be a perfect fit for another likely Hall of Fame candidate who was chased out of town two years ago. With Tom Coughlin having found a new home as the Jaguars’ director of football operations, there would be no better place for Manning to start over than Jacksonville.
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It’s not the ending Manning would have wanted, because he had hoped to end his career in the place where it started.
But it appears that decision has been made for him by an incompetent coach who will forever be known as the guy who did wrong by a quarterback who deserved much better.