Giant stunner: Eli Manning benched, Geno Smith to start

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Shutdown Corner

The New York Giants are benching franchise legend Eli Manning and will start Geno Smith at quarterback Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, the team announced Tuesday.

It will be the first time since Nov. 21, 2004, a span of 210 consecutive games, that Manning will not be the Giants’ starter. Manning started the 10th game of his rookie season and has started every game since. In that time, he led the franchise to two Super Bowl titles, both against the New England Patriots.

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A story posted to the team website says that coach Ben McAdoo gave Manning the option to start this week in order to keep his streak going – it is the second-longest for a quarterback in NFL history, behind Brett Favre’s 297 consecutive starts – but Manning declined.

Giant change: Geno Smith, right, will start for New York on Sunday; Eli Manning is being benched. (Getty Images)
Giant change: Geno Smith, right, will start for New York on Sunday; Eli Manning is being benched. (Getty Images)

“Coach McAdoo told me I could continue to start while Geno and Davis [Webb] are given an opportunity to play. My feeling is that if you are going to play the other guys, play them,” Manning said. “Starting just to keep the streak going and knowing you won’t finish the game and have a chance to win it is pointless to me, and it tarnishes the streak. Like I always have, I will be ready to play if and when I am needed. I will help Geno and Davis prepare to play as well as they possibly can.”

Manning will be Smith’s backup, with Davis remaining the No. 3 quarterback.

The Giants are currently 2-9, losing to NFC East rival Washington on Thanksgiving. They were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, after the Panthers beat the New York Jets.

New York has lost several key players to injury, including receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. Manning has completed 62.5 percent of his passes, with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions; he has been sacked 26 times as part of the Giants’ injury problems have been along the offensive line. They have started eight different offensive line combinations.

Smith, who spent the first four years of his career with the Jets, has made just one appearance this season for the Giants. He will be the first black quarterback to start a game for the Giants; they are the last team in the NFL to have a black QB start a game.

Speaking to reporters in the team’s locker room after the decision had been announced, Manning was emotional.

It’s hard. It’s hard. Hard day, but I’ll handle this, hang in there and figure it out,” he said, appearing to hold back tears.

Manning signed a four-year, $84 million contract extension with $67 million guaranteed that went into effect before the 2016 season. His base salary for this year is $13 million, but his cap is $19.7 million when the prorated $6.2 million from his signing bonus and $500,000 workout bonus are added in.

He’s owed a $5 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2018 league year, which comes in March. If, as it seems clear with this move, the Giants are ready to move on from the best quarterback they’ve ever had, it will likely happen before that payment is due.

NFL Twitter is stunned by the benching, with Manning’s former teammates and competitors ripping the Giants.

David Carr, who was Manning’s backup for three seasons (2008, 2009, 2012), wrote, “They’ve lost their collective minds.”

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who played with Manning for eight years, tweeted, “Eli deserves much better than that. Much better. Class person, class player. That’s absurd”.

David Diehl, who spent a decade protecting Manning on the offensive line, wrote that he’s “Absolutely speechless”:

Retired linebacker London Fletcher, who, like Manning, was an Ironman – he played played in every regular-season game of his 16-year career – faced the quarterback twice a season in seven years with Washington.

“Eli Manning has been totally disrespected by the @Giants,” Fletcher posted on Twitter.

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