The big news around the National Football League over the course of the past couple of days was the New York Giants’ announcement that they would be turning over the quarterback position to Geno Smith, whom they signed in free agency this year, and rookie third-rounder Davis Webb.
This followed a 2-9 start of the season for 14-year veteran Eli Manning, who was the first-overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, a class that many regard as the greatest for quarterback of all time, having also produced Philip Rivers and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ own Ben Roethlisberger.
Because of the nature of their entry into the league, those three quarterbacks have often been tied together, their careers compared and dissected under the microscope. Recently, the trio has found itself climbing up into the top 10 of many scoring records, including completions and passing yardage.
So it’s no surprise that both of them had at least something to say when asked to comment on the Giants’ benching of Manning, who declined a hollow offer from the team to be allowed to start the game in order to retain his starting streak, which, over 200 games, is the second-longest among quarterbacks of all time, edging out his elder brother by two games, yet distant to Brett Favre’s mark of nearly 300.
Roethlisberger, the more diplomatic of the two other quarterbacks, simply said of the situation that Manning is “a tremendous football player”, and added, “I think the way he handled everything showed the kind of person he is”.
While the Giants organization from top to bottom has been widely criticized for the manner in which they handled the situation—the owner even confirmed yesterday that he had it in mind weeks ago to get a look at the other quarterbacks—praise for Manning and the nature in which he has navigated this ugly transition has been pretty much universal.
Rivers was not nearly so diplomatic. He said that he “thought it was pathetic” on the Giants’ part. “He’s been out there 210 straight games—with no telling how many bumps and bruises and injuries—for his team”.
“With the respect he’s had in the locker room over the years, and really the respect he’s gained throughout the league, you feel like the guy has earned the opportunity…to finish it off these last five weeks”.
Giants owner John Mara did express regret about how everything had transpired, and said he’d wished he had been there as the conversation took place. For his part, he said that he would have been open to leaving him in the game if he had been playing well and the team was winning.
But if you truly want to ‘get a look’ at the other quarterbacks on the roster, they need to take starter reps, and they need starter preparation and playing time. It’s that simple. Manning made the right decision for the team that they failed to do on their own. And at this point he may be in another uniform in 2018.