Eli Manning said he doesn’t know where he’ll be playing next year, but he knows where he wants to be on Sunday.
Manning said on his weekly radio spot on WFAN that he spoke with interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo on Monday afternoon, shortly after the Giants fired Ben McAdoo, and told him he’d like to return to his role as starting quarterback for the upcoming game against the Cowboys. He was not given an immediate answer, he said, but the expectation is that he’ll be back under center early Sunday afternoon.
Co-owner John Mara said it is Spagnuolo’s decision to make. Anyone who saw the then-defensive coordinator tap his heart and talk about how much he loves Manning during his news conference last week certainly would not be surprised if Manning starts.
Mara insisted that the handling of the decision to start Geno Smith was not the “final straw” in his conclusion to fire both general manager Jerry Reese and McAdoo, the architects of the plan to transition at the quarterback position.
“You ought to stop blaming Ben and Jerry,” Mara said of the fallout from the Manning debacle. “If you want to blame anybody, blame me. I certainly had the power to overrule them if I wanted to and chose not to do it.”
As he said last week, Mara noted that he would have preferred to have seen that situation transpire differently.
“The plan was Ben was going to talk to Eli and tell him that he was going to start the first half and Geno would play the second half,” Mara said. “I signed off on that. My hope was two things. One, that I was going to speak to Ben and try to get him to be a little bit more flexible about that, although I do not like interfering with coaching decisions about who is going to play. I’ve never done that before. Also, as I said the other day, I was hoping that Eli would be playing so well that we couldn’t possibly take him out.”
Neither happened, and Manning’s streak ended at 210 regular-season starts.
Manning said that in his heart, he believes his streak continues because it was always about being ready and being accountable, and on Sunday he was both. This time, though, it was from the sideline.
Manning said he is not “bitter” toward the Giants and left open the possibility of playing for them next season, but he also said he understands that may not occur. “I get it,” he said.
Still, in an emotional speech at the end of his radio interview, Manning gave what sounded a lot like a farewell address. Asked what the most difficult part of the past week was, he pointed to the conversation with McAdoo in which he was told he could start but would be replaced no matter how well or poorly he and the team were playing.
“That’s what being the starting quarterback is: When you’re playing that week and you’re out there for that first series and you’re expected to go win a football game,” he said. “Every game I played in, 210 straight games, that’s what was asked of me. I didn’t get a win every single time, but I was expected to and the fans and my teammates and my coaches believed that I could do it, and it was important. This week, that wasn’t the case.
“ I love playing quarterback for the New York Giants. I love this organization and the relationships that have been built. I came here and I was 23 years old, just a little kid, and I’ve kind of grown up around the people in the organization, the coaches, the video people, the training room. I’ve loved every second of it, and a part of me was taken away when that was said. It crushed me a little bit.”