One of the first things Steve Spagnuolo discussed with John Mara after being named the interim head coach of the Giants on Monday was the quarterback situation. As defensive coordinator he hadn’t spent much time analyzing the reps of the three on the team’s roster, but Spagnuolo has been around long enough to understand that the mishandling of Eli Manning and Geno Smith is a big reason why Ben McAdoo is no longer with the team.
So he said what he believed, but also what Mara undoubtedly wanted to hear.
“I said: ‘John, my gut right now is that Eli should be the starter,’ ” Spagnuolo said on Wednesday. “I took my gut and visited with the offensive coaches and together with that and my gut, Eli Manning is going to be our quarterback.”
Asked if that gives the Giants the best chance to win on Sunday against the Cowboys, Spagnuolo said: “That would be a pretty good assessment.”
The return to normal for the Giants, though, means a return to the bench for Geno Smith. After becoming the first quarterback other than Manning to taste the Giants’ starting job in almost a decade and a half on Sunday, he’ll be back to running the scout team this week and watching from the sideline at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Smith admitted he was not happy with the decision.
“Any competitor wouldn’t be,” he said. “To be put in that situation where you get a chance to play and then you’re being pulled, but it’s not because you played bad, you try to figure out why. But you’ve got to understand that some things happen in this business and you’ve just got to roll with it.”
Smith said he reflected on a speech by Bobby Blick, one of the Giants’ defensive assistants, earlier this season.
“It was about being an oak tree no matter if the sun is shining or if the wind is blowing and it’s storming,” he said. “Just staying rooted, staying grounded and being the same guy. So I think that comes into play especially more now. I’m just going to continue to be the same guy, continue to support my guys, my teammates. Continue to be prepared, you never know what can happen and we’ll see from there.”
Smith said he won’t waste much time now trying to figure out why he isn’t starting, even if that isn’t a difficult puzzle to piece together.
“That’s something that maybe I’ll figure out along the road,” he said.
He was asked if he showed enough in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders to deserve another shot, even if it’s with another team.
“To some people it may never be enough and to others it will be,” he said. “That’s not my job to focus on that. My job is to get better as a player, focus on my game and how I can improve. Obviously, there are some things that I can improve on from Sunday and that’s what I’ll focus on.”
Smith was told by Spagnuolo that the Giants were turning back to Manning.
“He told me the decision that he made, I told him how I felt about it, and then we kind of moved on from there,” Smith said.
Spagnuolo, though, was impressed by the way Smith handled the team reverting to Manning, calling their meeting “a tremendous conversation.”
“I have a great deal of respect for Geno Smith in the way he reacted,” Spagnuolo said. “He was a man. He obviously didn’t agree with the decision, but he is a team player and he told me that he was going to go forward and wants to be a part of this and I just have a great deal of respect for him. It’s not an easy thing to do.”