Eli Manning is an iconic sports figure in this town. While other NFL teams change quarterbacks the way most of us change our socks, he has been the uninterrupted Big Blue signal-caller since 2004 as was evidenced by his 210-game consecutive starting game streak that was snapped on Sunday. He has always been a positive voice in the locker room; good with media; and a pillar in the community. And yes, he led the Giants to a pair of Super Bowl victories.
Nonetheless, the reaction from the media about his benching was over-the-top, to say the least. Mike Francesa, who is stepping down from his WFAN afternoon drivetime slot next Friday, was able to get off one last classic rant. You would have thought that we were on the verge of World War III.
Manning is 36 years old and the Giants need to think about the future even though Eli has defied the aging gods based on his appearance. Granted, there are quarterbacks who are still thriving who are older. The Jets’ Josh McCown is having a career year at age 38 and may very well be back with the Jets in 2018. And 40-year-old Tom Brady is still at the top of his game and will probably torment the Jets for at least another decade. Still, those are rare exceptions and not the rule.
The Giants were 2-9 when beleaguered head coach Ben McAdoo made the announcement that Geno Smith would start against the Oakland Raiders and that third-string QB Davis Webb would probably get the same privilege before the season mercifully ends.
Giants management is well within their rights to test their backups under real game conditions. Ben McAdoo and Giants general manager Jerry Reese took a lot of grief for their decision to bench Eli Manning but it took courage on their parts to do it. Considering that both men are on the verge of being fired, the safe route would have been to let Eli keep playing and hope that the Giants would finish strong which might earn them both a reprieve.
The only mistake that I could see that was made was that Eli wasn’t informed about this decision by team CEO John Mara before it became public.
In my opinion. Eli Manning’s starting game streak has been an albatross. I remember going out to the Giants practice facility in East Rutherford the last week of December 2009. The Giants had just been eliminated from the playoff hunt and had to finish the season in Minneapolis to play the Vikings. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin turned beet-red when I asked him why he was playing Manning in a meaningless game and thus unnecessarily risking injury while Giants beat writers gave me dirty looks for having the chutzpah to ask such a heretical question.
Oh yes, the Giants lost that game 44-7.
The Jets showed a lot of heart in resiliency in their 38-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
They found themselves quickly down 14-0 after Chiefs’ wide receiver Travis Kelce caught two perfectly thrown long passes from his quarterback, Alex Smith. Jets QB Josh McCown responded by leading the Jets to a pair of quick touchdowns and the teams were tied at the end of the first quarter.
The lead constantly changed hands. In a refreshing change of pace, it was the Jets who kept their composure during the critical moments of the fourth quarter while their opponent was committing foolish penalties that ultimately cost them the game, 38-31.
Afterwards, I asked Josh McCown who has played in the NFL for 15 seasons if his heart races a little faster when a play appears busted and he has to run for the first down which he seems to do quite often. “Absolutely. If you don’t keep moving the sticks then you are not going to be in this industry for long.”
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