Kurt Warner seemed more upset by the benching of Eli Manning than he was when he himself was benched in favor of Manning late in the 2004 season.
“Shame on the Giants,” said the Hall of Fame quarterback, the last man other than Manning to start a game for the team.
Warner, now an analyst for NFL Network, expressed his disappointment in the decision made by coach Ben McAdoo and announced on Tuesday to end Manning’s streak of consecutive regular-season starts at 210 and hand the football to Geno Smith on Sunday against the Raiders.
“This is so much bigger than Eli Manning,” Warner said. “This is about an entire organization that has gone sideways. If you’ve got one guy that represents what this organization has been about and the character and the success of this organization, it’s that guy that has been under center in Eli Manning. He’s never done anything but show character and do things the right way.”
Many others who were once affiliated with the Giants offered similar sentiments in broadcast or through social media. Those included two former teammates of Manning’s, co-captains with him on Super Bowl-winning teams.
“This is like a gut punch to Giants’ nation,” former Giants center Shaun O’Hara said in his current role as an analyst on NFL Network. “Giants fans love to talk about Giants pride. This is not something that you think of when you think about the Giants organization and how they would treat somebody like Eli. Ben McAdoo wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for Eli. Eli is the one that vouched for him when they ushered Tom Coughlin out the door. Jerry Reese wouldn’t have a job or two rings if it wasn’t for Eli and what he did in those Super Bowls . . . This feels like a punch right to the stomach. I’ve been sick, I’ve been angry.”
Added former DE Justin Tuck on Twitter: “I’m honestly at a loss for words . . . This decision is one of the STUPIDEST I’ve seen in my time being [associated] with pro sports.”
Even Manning’s former coach, Tom Coughlin, now the vice president of football operations for the Jaguars, weighed in on a Jacksonville radio station on Tuesday.
“Surprised is not the word,” Coughlin said on WJXL-AM upon hearing the decision. “My sentiments are totally with Eli Manning . . . I haven’t followed the Giants. I know it’s a disappointing year, but my thoughts are strictly with Eli. I was very upset when I heard that.”
The criticism wasn’t limited to those outside the Giants’ current immediate family. Ring of Honor linebacker and current team broadcaster Carl Banks offered his profanity-laced disagreement with the decision on Twitter.
“[Expletive] up!!!!” Banks posted. “I am very emotional about this Eli [stuff] . . . The guy who gave you EVERYTHING for better or worse NEVER missing a game and THIS how it ends?? Not #10! He deserves better, He gave his all when BETTER wasn’t there for him.. and this is how it ends?? I hurt for him.”
Non-Giants thought the team mishandled the situation, too.
“There is a thing called professionalism in our game and respect in our game,” said NFL Network’s Deion Sanders. “This has to be the most disrespectful act I’ve seen in the NFL from ownership to player in quite some time. General manager, head coach — whoever is responsible, somebody find out because they have to go.”
Warner, who played for three different NFL teams and took two of them to the Super Bowl, went so far as to advise Manning to consider playing elsewhere.
“I think you always have to keep an open mind, even if it’s the same regime,” Warner said. “He will do the right thing, but that’s going to be hard for him to look these guys in the eye after they told him you’re sitting on the bench . . . To me it’s a bit of a slap in the face from that perspective. Like I said, he’ll do the right thing and I hope his career there is not over and he gets to write the final chapter. But just disappointed in how this played out.”