On Monday, the New York Giants co-owner John Mara emphatically called for a comprehensive overhaul of his flagging franchise. The first step, however, will be a popular and symbolic step back.
Eli Manning, who from 2004 until last weekend resolutely started 210 consecutive games at quarterback for the Giants, will be restored as the team’s top quarterback Sunday when the Giants host the Dallas Cowboys, according to a person with knowledge of the decision who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
For Manning, his streak of starting assignments will start over at game No. 1. He will surely be greeted warmly by the crowd at MetLife Stadium, since a wide swath of Giants fans were outraged last week when the coach at the time, Ben McAdoo, benched Manning.
In the wake of that move and a subsequent loss to the Oakland Raiders, McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese were fired Monday. Manning’s return to the starting lineup does not mean he will put together a new, lengthy starting streak because his future with the team after this season remains very much in doubt. But Steve Spagnuolo, the Giants’ interim coach, wants Manning at the helm of the offense for the time being.
McAdoo, in his last major move as coach, turned to the ex-Jets quarterback Geno Smith in a 24-17 loss to the Raiders Sunday. But Smith’s streak of starts will end at one game.
The Giants’ record is a miserable 2-10. With four games remaining in the season, it is also likely that the team will try to get the rookie quarterback Davis Webb ready to play some downs as a replacement for Manning, especially if the Giants fall behind in games, a likely scenario given the team’s injury-decimated lineup.
But assessing Webb, and deciding where he might fit in the team’s long-term plans, could be imperative since the Giants may have one of the top three picks in next year’s NFL draft. Taking a quarterback with the pick — or trading it for other pressing needs should the team be set at quarterback — would seem to be a priority.
Spagnuolo is expected to announce Wednesday that Manning will start against Dallas, and the team’s subsequent interview session will be Manning’s first general availability to members of the news media since the McAdoo and Reese dismissals. But Monday, in an interview with Mike Francesa of the radio station WFAN, Manning insisted he felt no acrimony toward McAdoo or Reese.
Manning said he had been offered the chance to start Sunday’s game in Oakland to keep his streak alive — but only on the condition that he would play no more than the first half — and simply rejected the idea.
“I went in the next day and just said, ‘I can’t do it that way,'” Manning told Francesa. “I wasn’t being asked to win a football game. I was asked just to play, in part, to keep a streak alive, and I appreciated that. I wasn’t mad at Coach McAdoo. I wasn’t mad at Jerry Reese. I wasn’t bitter about it. I was upset. I was heartbroken a little bit.”
Manning indicated that he might have agreed to the plan if he was told he could remain in the game if he had been playing well and the team was winning.
And since the Giants might draft their prospective quarterback of the future next spring, Manning acknowledged that his future with the franchise that drafted him 13 years ago was in jeopardy. He recalled that he was “just a little kid” when he was first welcomed into the Giants fold.
As for next season, Manning said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know I want to keep playing football. I think I’ve got a lot of good football left in me.”