With Eli benching, Giants are ensuring fans will have a blue Christmas

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning at a press conference after game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)


Sports Op-Ed

(WTNH) –There is no way to sugarcoat this, no amount of tinsel or Christmas ornaments to cover it up. Your New York football Giants stink.

Even stink would say they stink, like a bad odor coming from an overcooked roast beef tenderloin in the oven. The Giants have given their fan base nothing to be jolly about this season.

2017 has been a disaster thus far for the G-men. With five games remaining on the schedule, it doesn’t look like it will be improving either. I’ve been a long-time Giants fan. I’ve seen the ups and the downs from season to season. I have had the pleasure of enjoying the glorious franchise defining years of the late 1980’s and early 1990s, the deconstruction of the New England Patriots title run, twice, and have also sat through the not so fun years. With that being said, I’ve always considered the organization to be among the elite and classiest within the entire NFL.

What this season has become is worse than not only what was expected for this year, but also what Giants fans have learned to expect from the franchise over many years. Maybe us fans should have seen this coming though. Between the surprising recent draft picks, the incompetence of addressing their offensive line and the style in which Coach Tom Coughlin was let go two seasons ago, the Giants from top to bottom have changed. For the worse. The handling of the Eli Manning benching this week will go down as one their lowest moments.

As one of the premiere organizations in all of the NFL, the Giants have always been built on strong defenses, a solid running game, and at least decent enough quarterback play to get into the playoffs and win a Super Bowl from time to time. Until 2012, that was the recipe for success for them. Since that time, they have been on a downward spiral. I wasn’t in favor of releasing Coughlin when the Giants got rid of the two time winning Super Bowl head coach. It didn’t seem to me that he should have been the fall guy for the amount of success he achieved with the team that he was responsible for while completely changing the culture and winning attitude that the team had previously struggled with prior to his tenure.

However, the Giants ownership felt differently after one mediocre season at 9-7, and three consecutive losing seasons. Out goes Coughlin, and in comes Ben McAdoo, the offensive wizard coordinator who is credited with implementing a successful turnaround season for Eli to the tune of a 11-5 record. But how much of that 11-5 record should McAdoo be credited for? If we are to bash him for the 2-9 record of this season, which I will, then he should take full credit for his job in getting them to the playoffs a year ago, right?

Wrong. That 2016 team was mostly Jerry Reese and Coughlin made, plus the organization was finally able to open up their wallets to sign enormous contracts to revamp the defense. I’m of the belief that Coughlin would have had no problem getting that same team into the playoffs, just as McAdoo did. And with his track record, may have even pushed them further into the playoffs than McAdoo did.

So what has changed since their Super Bowl days of the past? For starters, they have switched from a run first offense, to a pass first offense. A game plan that can work, but if a team doesn’t draft accordingly to that plan, then it doesn’t work. And when two starting receivers go down to season ending injuries, and another starting receiver is on and off the injured list, that game plan goes kaput. For the past three seasons, the Giants offensive line has been among the worst in the league. They drafted Ereck Flowers with their first round pick three years ago, hoping to resolve protection issues, but that has failed miserably. And they never took a high draft on a highly regarded lineman nor made any trades for a good one in that same time frame.

Another striking contrast from this organization now compared to their winning seasons of the past is that they have allowed players to run amok with free reign. McAdoo has no control over Odell Beckham’s antics whatsoever. From the boat party before last season’s playoffs, to his vulgar touchdown celebrations of urinating like a dog, Odell hasn’t matured enough. There is some level of acceptance you can overlook with a player like Beckham’s talents, but at some point leadership needs to be able to dial it back. The franchise has failed in that regard. When the team owner has to bring a player into his office to address how to conduct themselves more professionally, that should tell you everything you need to know about McAdoo.

Beckham is not alone. Take a look at Manning’s locker room interview while addressing his benching for the first time with the media this week . If you have seen it already, you will clearly see Eli struggling with his words at times, visually upset with the decision, and at times a bit choked up in speaking about it. Take another look at that interview in that locker room, and turn up the volume. You can hear someone, if not a few others, in that room laughing about something in the background. I wasn’t in that locker room and can’t verify what was going on behind the cameras, but I’ve heard reports that that was a teammate talking about a separate issue and having a good laugh about it while Eli was pouring his guts out into the microphones.

Now why on earth in that moment would any teammates be enjoying themselves knowing what Eli is going through? You should be able to hear a pin drop in that room in that instant. Culture and temperament of the team can explain this. That is defined by the coaches and the leadership, or in this case, lack-there-of.

So what might be going on with the benching of Eli and his future with the team moving forward?

If you asked me, Eli has played his last game as a New York Giant based on the optics. However, lets go through the possible scenarios of the choices they can make while Eli is still employed by the Giants.

If the team has decided they have had enough of Eli, then the benching would make sense, and they are trying to preserve him for a trade after the season is over. If the Giants decided that they want to keep Eli injury free, and plan on keeping him for next season as a starter, then the benching would make sense. In either of these two plans, the Geno Smith start doesn’t fit into the equation. Not when you spend a third round draft pick on a quarterback in Davis Webb who will be serving as a number three quarterback on the roster for the Oakland game.

Why wouldn’t McAdoo, assuming he’s in charge of the roster decisions, see what Webb has to offer? How is Webb not ready to play on a 2-9 team with nothing to lose. What has Webb been doing this whole season on the sidelines if anyone is going to say he’s not ready to play?

McAdoo has already told the media that he wants to see what Geno can do first, then see what Webb can do afterward at some point this season. Why do the Giants spend a high draft pick on a quarterback, only to give the first crack to Geno who is in his fifth season, benched by the Jets and eventually released, and has resorted to serving strictly as a back up?

If you’re going to commit to Webb as the successor to Eli, which all of us have no idea that the Giants will do, why not see what he’s got now, right away, rather than two or three games left in the season? Webb has had a pre-season, and 12 weeks into the year to pick Eli’s brain under his wing. What’s left to do other than start a game at this point as long as the Giants are giving up on Eli?

Whatever the game plan is for the rest of the season, there is probably a collective agreement that the Giants will want to reserve a top three pick in the next draft so that they can select either Sam Darnold (USC QB) or Josh Rosen (UCLA QB), two of the best quarterback’s expected to enter the 2018 draft. While none of us will know for sure until next year, the days of Eli as a Giant seem to be done as the team will likely prepare to take their future quarterback out of college. Unfortunately, their selection will likely not be able to train under a multiple Super Bowl winning quarterback before getting their first start with the Giants.

I think Giants fans would have more respect for the franchise if team co-owner John Mara, or team General Manager Jerry Reese, or Head Coach Bob McAdoo, or someone in the organization came out and told everyone a clear plan that made some sort of sense moving forward. Instead, we all got a knee-jerk reaction from the team’s leaders which eventually lead to Eli deciding he would rather not start if he was just going to be taken out in the second-quarter in each of the remaining games this season.

McAdoo, like every interview he’s conducted, left the media with more questions than answers this week while speaking on the topic. Eli said he didn’t like this decision. Every Giant fan will tell you they don’t want Geno starting. Will all of this be irrelevant come season’s end if McAdoo and Reese get taken to the exit doors. Perhaps.

One thing is clear, despite what the leadership is saying, the team has decided they would prefer to lose the rest of their games this season while¬†sporadically showing off their ill-equipped quarterbacks not named Eli Manning. You can’t sell your fans on that plan as a ‘winning’ recipe, when you’ve already stated that you’re going to start multiple quarterbacks at any given point in any given game. That’s the leadership telling fans that they’re trying to win with a giant wink of the eye. The Mara and McAdoo explanations would have been better served had they stated that the season is over,¬† that they would like to preserve Eli’s health to ensure he’s ready to go into next year, and that they want to see what Webb can do as they had selected him with the opportunity to be Eli’s successor. With that kind of message they would at least have saved themselves from ridicule. Their fans are looking for a high draft pick at this point in the season, just like ownership is. Why beat around the bush.

One bit of advice for all Giants fans. As you snuggle up against the fireplace this holiday season with a glass of eggnog, and maybe needing to reach for the liquor cabinet to kick that drink up a notch, keep in mind that there will be a silver lining to all of this bah humbug being passed off as the Giants. The light at the end of the tunnel should lead to more changes. And changes are needed. Lets just hope those changes resort back to the old Giant ways.

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