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Eli Manning has earned respect, but Giants’ franchise comes first

Eli Manning of the Giants looks on from

Eli Manning of the Giants looks on from the sidelines late in the fourth quarter against the Lions at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 18, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac


Change is coming, because that is what change does. It comes.

Eli Manning will be 37½ the next time the Giants play a meaningful game, and it is unlikely that he will be their quarterback the next time they win a Super Bowl.

So it is reasonable and proper for team president John Mara and general manager (for now) Jerry Reese to plan accordingly and not worry about beside-the-point noise such as Manning’s games-played streak, which hit 205 here Sunday night against the Broncos.

Yes, Manning deserves an extra measure of respect because of the two Super Bowl MVPs on his resume, but beyond that, the only priority is what is best for the franchise.

That includes moving on, whether in the form of a trade with Tom Coughlin’s quarterback-challenged Jaguars before the Oct. 31 deadline (highly unlikely) or drafting Eli’s successor with a high pick in the spring (more likely), then keeping Manning around as a mentor or letting him go.

Do we really need to spend time and space listing iconic jocks associated with one uniform who concluded their careers in another uniform without tarnishing their legacy, even if the end was not pretty?

OK, but quickly, and far from comprehensively:

Quarterbacks: Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning. Others: O.J. Simpson, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice.

Other sports: Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Pelé.

Again, change happens in life, as in football. If not, the Browns would be set at quarterback with Otto Graham rather than Kevin Hogan. Alas, Mr. Graham died in 2003, and the Browns still are searching for a long-term answer.

More interesting and tricky than the question of whether to jettison Manning is whether to bench him if the season continues down its current path and, say, the Giants are 2-10 when the Cowboys visit on Dec. 10.

Sitting him in favor of Geno Smith does not make much sense, but it sure would be nice to take a look at young Davis Webb come December, just in case the Giants have something to work with in their third-round draft pick.

Would Webb give them the best chance to win in their three divisional home games in the last four weeks? No. Would ending Manning’s streak for a reason other than injury be harsh? Yes.

But this is a big-boy league with little room for sentiment, and Eli is a big boy who saw his father, Archie, an iconic Saint, finish with the Oilers and Vikings, and his brother Peyton, an iconic Colt, finish with the Broncos.

He also saw Kerry Collins, who had led the Giants to a Super Bowl, kicked aside in 2004 after the arrival of rookie Eli Manning, and he saw future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner get benched with a 5-4 record that same year in favor of rookie Eli Manning, who promptly lost his first six starts.

On Thursday, Newsday’s Bob Glauber approached Manning with the trade-to-Jacksonville theory, which the quarterback said he had not heard before. He then said he wants to be a Giant until the end of his career, “Always. Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Manning, signed through 2019, also said, “You always want to come to a place and make an impact, stay in one spot, and I think that’s always the mindset. I hope that will be the case.

“Obviously, in this league, things can change, and if we have to make decisions, we’ll figure it out.”

Did someone say “change”?

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