Posted on November 28, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
One of the longest streaks in football history is about to come to an end. The New York Giants announced Tuesday that Eli Manning will not start this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Geno Smith will start in his place. The change will effectively end Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive starts. Only Brett Favre has started more consecutive games with 297.
At 2-9, the Giants have little to lose by benching Manning in favor of Smith. Of course, they also have little to gain. Smith is a free agent after this season, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be back with the Giants next season, whether he plays well or not. Head coach Ben McAdoo also says that rookie Davis Webb will also see the field during the final five weeks of the season.
“This is not a statement about anything other than we are 2-9, and we have to do what is best for the organization moving forward, and that means evaluating every position,” Giants GM Jerry Reese said in the statement. “I told Eli this morning that an organization could not ask for any more in a franchise quarterback. He has been that and more. Nobody knows what the future holds, but right now, this is what we think is best for the franchise.”
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Manning says that he was given the option to start the game and then be replaced by Smith to keep the streak alive. But he declined McAdoo’s offer to do that, even though he will remain active as Smith’s backup on Sunday.
“My feeling is that if you are going to play the other guys, play them,” Manning said Tuesday. “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.”
The decision to bench Manning brings up the possibility that he has played his last game with the Giants. Whether or not Smith or Webb prove to be long-term options, the Giants figure to have new leadership next season. New York is also virtually guaranteed to have a top-5 pick in next year’s draft. The team is already scouting top college quarterbacks and is likely to draft a quarterback in the 1st round. Such a move would likely mean Manning is somewhere else next season, even with two more years left on his contract.
Meanwhile, for Smith and Webb, the next five weeks offer an opportunity. Smith has more career interceptions than touchdowns, although he’s rarely played since the 2014 season. This may be his last chance to prove he can at least be a viable backup in the NFL. For Webb, any action would be the first of his career. In any event, this week’s game will be the first for the Giants without Manning at quarterback since November 2004.