Giants co-owner John Mara addressed the recent benching of long-time franchise quarterback Eli Manning at the team’s practice facility on Wednesday, describing an emotional meeting with the two-time Super Bowl MVP on Tuesday morning and admitting that the decision could have been handled better.
With the Giants sitting at 2-9, Mara, coach Ben McAdoo, and general manager Jerry Reese all agreed it was time to evaluate backup quarterbacks Geno Smith and Davis Webb. The decision was announced Tuesday, ahead of Sunday’s game in Oakland.
‘I had mentioned to [general manager Jerry Reese] a week or two ago, “Don’t you think it’s time to start to get a look at these other quarterbacks at some point during these games?”‘ Mara told reporters. ‘And he agreed, said he’d already had a conversation with Ben about that.’
John Mara (left) and the New York Giants might be looking at a future without Eli Manning (right) for the first time since before they acquired him in 2004
Manning was given the option of starting the Giants’ remaining games and extending his streak of 210 consecutive starts – the most among active quarterbacks – but on Tuesday, a tearful Manning said it would be too difficult to start a game in which he knew he’d be removed. Also, he explained, such a scenario ‘tarnishes the streak.’
On Wednesday, Mara agreed with Manning’s perspective.
‘I think if he’s playing well in the first half, we’re winning the game, it looks like we’ve got a chance, the offense is clicking, I would argue then keep him in the game,’ Mara said. ‘But having him definitively come out at the end of the first half, I can understand why he would object to that.
‘It was presented the way Ben thought it ought to be presented,’ Mara continued. ‘And could we have done it differently? I guess you argue that we could’ve, yes.’
According to Mara, Manning outright rejected the idea of playing for a half.
‘Tuesday morning, Jerry called me and said that Eli had informed Ben that if you’re gonna play Geno in the second half, you may as well just start him,’ Mara explained. ‘It’s not fair to him, it’s not fair to me. I think that would be the best decision going forward. And he also wanted us to put out a statement announcing that. So that’s what we did.’
Manning helped former Giants coach Tom Coughlin (center in blue) and Mara (right) win two Super Bowl rings with a pair of upset wins over the New England Patriots
Of Tuesday’s meeting with Manning, Mara did not go into too much detail.
‘It was a very emotional talk,’ said Mara, whose grandfather Tim purchased the Giants in 1925. ‘And he is obviously not happy with the decision but he understands it. And I told him that, I said my hope here had been that you would continue to play, not only to keep your streak alive but because I was hoping — I didn’t want him to go out like this.
‘But I understand his feeling,’ Mara continued. ‘I respect his decision. He doesn’t want the streak to be tarnished by just getting in for a few series or something. But I was hoping that he’d come in, he’d play, he’d be playing well, we’d have a chance to win the game and maybe he’d stay in there or something. But he understands at some point we’ve got to look at the other quarterbacks because he’s not gonna play forever.’
Fan reaction was immediate, with many calling for Reese and McAdoo to be fired – something that may end up happening after the season regardless. The Giants have already been eliminated from playoff contention thanks and currently have 19 players on injured reserve.
Was Mara surprised by the outpouring of support for Manning, who many felt deserved better treatment?
‘Yes and no,’ Mara said. ‘I expected there was going to be an emotional reaction from fans. I would say it’s been a little in excess of maybe what I had expected, but given what he has meant to our franchise and to so many people for so long, it’s understandable.’
Giants coach Ben McAdoo after the Giants fell to 2-9 with Thursday’s loss in Washington
Giants general manager Jerry Reese (left) is on the hot seat with the Giants at just 2-9
A former New York Jets quarterback, Geno Smith will start Sunday for the Giants in Oakland
Actress Kate Mara, who is John Mara’s niece, seemed upset by the decision and tweeted ‘ELI’ alongside broken heart and blue heart emojis.
She retweeted former Giants receiver Victor Cruz, who wrote: ‘The only quarterback that’s ever thrown me the ball. I can’t say I agree with the decision making in this moment but know that you’ll always have a teammate and friend in me brother.’
Alongside a blue heart she also retweeted former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who said: ‘Eli Manning you’re always gonna be my QB. 2X Super Bowl MVP you can’t make that sh** up bro.’
When asked if this marks the end of Manning’s 14-year career with the Giants, Mara hesitated.
‘I don’t think you should be writing his obituary just yet,’ Mara said. ‘A lot of things can change between now and next spring and next season, and we obviously have some tough decisions to make at the end of the year and who knows what’s gonna happen.’
Manning us currently signed through the 2019 season, but he’ll slated to make $22 million over the next two seasons, so the Giants will likely look to alleviate some of that financial burden.
Manning has started every Giants game since November 21, 2004 when he replaced Kurt Warner in Week 10 of his rookie season.
The former Ole Miss star has guided the Giants to two Super Bowl victories and is the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (50,625), touchdown passes (334) and interceptions (222).
Despite the 2-9 record, Manning played relatively well for the Giants in 2017. He completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 2,411 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also posted a respectable quarterback rating of 84.1. Besides a host of injuries along the offensive line, Manning also lost top wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall for the season, which limited his options significantly.
‘This is not the way it should be, but unfortunately, it’s where we are,’ McAdoo said. ‘Our number one priority every week is to go win a game, but we owe it to the organization to get an evaluation of everybody on the roster, and that includes at the quarterback position.
‘I’ll say it again, I have the utmost respect for Eli and everything he has done for this organization throughout his career,’ McAdoo continued. ‘He is the consummate professional. He doesn’t like the position we are in, and neither do any of us. Eli has had to deal with a lot this season.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) walks off the field after a 2010 loss to the Washington Redskins on Thursday. Manning was benched Tuesday in favor of Geno Smith
Eli Manning (center in a blazer) alongside other members of the Super Bowl XLVI champion New York Giants including (from the left) left guard Kevin Boothe, right guard Chris Snee, defensive end Dave Tollefson, long snapper Zak DeOssie, co-owner Steve Tisch, and running back Brandon Jacobs. The win was the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl victory
‘Through it all, he has done everything we have asked of him in getting that unit ready to play,’ McAdoo added. ‘He has been steady, just like he has always been.’
Manning did not point the finger while speaking with reporters on Tuesday.
‘I have said it many times, I want to play, I want to compete, I want to be out there for my teammates to help them prepare to win,’ Manning said. ‘I understand that there are tough decisions that have to be made in the best interest of the organization, especially as a season like this winds down. This is one of those tough, uncomfortable decisions.’
Manning will best be remembered for leading the Giants to victory over an undefeated New England Patriots team in Super Bowl XLII in February of 2008. On his final possession of the game, Manning hit wide receiver Plaxico Burress for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining to give New York a 17-14 win.
Four years later, Manning would complete 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown as the Giants beat the Patriots 21-17 for the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl victory.
Unfortunately for Manning and the Giants, he would go on to appear in only one more playoff game – a 38-13 defeat in Green Bay during the 2016 postseason.
The Giants have gone just 51-60 since Super Bowl XLVI victory while making only one playoff appearance over that time.
After serving as offensive coordinator for the Giants in 2014, Ben McAdoo replaced longtime Giants coach Tom Coughlin in 2016.
Coughlin, who now serves as the president of the Jacksonville Jaguars, could theoretically reunite with Manning in Florida next season.
Peyton Manning (left), Archie Manning (center), and Eli Manning (right) in 2008. All three were first-round picks while Peyton and Eli both won a pair of Super Bowls