Eli Manning’s streak of games without starting will end at one.
Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo met with his staff Tuesday to devise the game plan for Sunday’s home game against Dallas and determined that Manning will resume his position as starting quarterback, a source told Newsday.
The decision, first reported by NFL Network, is not a surprise, considering the fallout from last week’s decision to sit Manning against the Raiders in favor of Geno Smith and co-owner John Mara’s renewed emphasis on trying to win rather than assessing others on the depth chart. It appeases loyal fans who were upset with the way Manning was treated, and it gives Spagnuolo the best chance to succeed in the start of a four-week audition for the head-coaching vacancy with the Giants and likely other teams as well.
What it does not do is secure Manning’s uncertain future with the Giants. That decision likely will be up to the new general manager and coach once this forgettable season has come to a merciful end.
The idea of Manning finishing his career anywhere but with the Giants seemed far-fetched when this season began and the term “Giant for life” was on almost everyone’s lips. But the losing, the sudden opportunity to have a top-five draft pick and the mishandling of the Manning Matter by a coach and general manager who have been fired have cast doubt as to whether Eli can or will be a Giant beyond this season. The situation is so nebulous that even Manning’s father, Archie, isn’t sure what to expect.
“I know this, and I’ve just briefly visited with him: He doesn’t have some dead-set plan for next year,” Archie said Tuesday at a Manhattan hotel where his other iconic son, Peyton, was being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. “You can’t. There’s too many unknown things out there.”
Eli Manning is coming to grips with that uncertainty. In his weekly radio appearance Monday on WFAN he spoke about how he has “loved every second” of his 14-season Giants career and reflected on arriving with the franchise as a 23-year-old only to grow up with the team. He said no doors have been slammed, and he stressed that he is “not bitter” over last week’s situation. But he also said: “I don’t know what the future is.”
“I understand,” he said. “I wasn’t happy about it. I was mad about it. I was crushed over it. But I understood what decisions have to be made when you are in that situation . . . I look at the other guys and I’m about to be 37 years old. Hey, I don’t like it, but I get it in a sense. I’m not angry at anyone.”
Manning’s streak of starts that ended at 210 Sunday in Oakland will reset anew. Geno Smith’s brief streak will end at one — he’ll be the first Giants quarterback not to get a second straight start since Kent Graham in 1994. Smith likely will be the backup Sunday, the source told Newsday, but rookie Davis Webb will see an increase in practice reps this week and could be active for next week’s home game against the Eagles.
If the Giants use their first-round pick on a quarterback or try to develop Webb, Archie believes Eli could excel in a teaching role. “He’s been good as a mentor this year, I think, [from] everything I’ve been told,” Archie said.
Peyton Manning wouldn’t comment about his younger brother’s situation. “I’ve always been very proud of Eli, always supported him as well, just like he has me throughout my entire career,” Peyton said. “That will never change.”
What may change soon is where that happens.
“I can’t speak for him, but I know Eli loves New York,” Archie said. “I know he loves playing for the Giants. He knows he’s [almost] 37. He knows what his ability is, what he thinks it is . . . He understands they got a young guy there that they need to see. He’s a team guy.”
Which team, though? On Sunday, it’s the Giants. Beyond this month is anyone’s guess.