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Eli Manning deserved better than this.
So what if his skills have started to decline? So what that he will receive $17 million to make two starts this season and now will become the backup to rookie Daniel Jones with the New York Giants off to an 0-2 start?
When you’ve carried a franchise to two Super Bowl victories, you deserve to go out in better style. You deserve to avoid the dizzying ways of indecision that have engulfed the Giants franchise over the course of the last two-plus years.
The Giants should have put the quarterback out of his misery long before Tuesday morning, when coach Pat Shurmur informed Manning the team is turning to Jones – the Duke product drafted New York drafted sixth overall in April with intentions of grooming him for the future.
As the second-year head coach told reporters, “Eli was obviously disappointed, as you would expect, but he said he would be what he has always been, a good teammate, and continue to prepare to help this team win games.”
Of course he would be disappointed to be stuck with all this.
In the last calendar year, his bosses have expressed a commitment to him and to winning. Yet their actions have suggested otherwise. Just months after giving wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. a long-term contract last August, they shipped the three-time Pro Bowler while failing to replace him with a comparable top weapon. The Giants also opted against re-signing one of their top defensive players (safety Landon Collins). They made efforts to reconfigure their offensive line, yet it remains as ineffective as ever.
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The Giants have clearly been in rebuilding mode, yet they haven’t wanted to acknowledge it. They’ve wanted to keep Manning in their jersey for the entirety of his career, yet they’ve failed to adequately support him or make it worth it for him to stick around.
Now, with an 0-2 record and the squad plagued by ineffective play on multiple fronts, they’re making Eli the fall guy and hoping that Jones can give them a spark.
Spoiler alert: This move will not save the Giants’ season. Outside of running back Saquon Barkley, there’s very little to work with on this roster.
Jones may have a little more zip on his passes, and he might be a little more fleet of foot. But he is going to be just as swarmed and overwhelmed by pass rushers as Manning was, just as frustrated by the dropped passes of his wide receivers and just as betrayed by a defense that ranks among the worst in the league in both yards and points allowed.
At best, Jones gains some experience playing at an NFL pace and gets a head start on next year, when hopefully, for his sake, the Giants have better stocked this roster with legitimate talent.
At worst, Jones either gets hurt or looks awful, develops bad habits and has his confidence shot entering Year 2. Hey, at least he’ll have the good solider Eli with whom he can commiserate.
But for Manning, it should’ve never come to this. He shouldn’t even be here. When the Giants decided to hit the reset button and part with what little upper-echelon talent they had, they should have said goodbye to Manning as well.
In truth, they probably should have made that move in the 2018 offseason.
Somewhere, Ben McAdoo is shaking his head and chuckling.
He was right, was he not? That’s essentially what the Giants have conceded now that they have officially ended the Manning era. But when McAdoo tried to position the franchise to plan for the future by benching Manning late in the 2017 season, he wound up losing his job the very next week.
Giants co-owner John Mara wanted to remain loyal to Manning. He made changes to their front office and coaching staff while sticking with his quarterback. But he hired a general manager in Dave Gettleman who possessed the vision of stripping this roster down and building it back up again with young, affordable talent.
And so, while that restoration project got underway, Manning remained and continued to toil away as the same undesirable conditions he had endured in recent years only worsened.
If Mara really wanted to properly support Manning, he should have ordered moves that would have dramatically upgraded this roster on both sides of the ball. He shouldn’t have allowed the Giants’ roster to deteriorate to the point that it had in the first place. You don’t see the Patriots or the Saints letting Tom Brady’s or Drew Brees’ supporting cast reach such levels of incompetency.
But the Giants’ roster did reach that point. It was indeed a mess and in need of an overhaul.
It’s OK to admit that it’s time for a change. It’s OK to say, “Thanks, but this is the end. It’s not you, it’s me.”
That’s what the Giants should have done for Manning: Given him his freedom so he could sign with a contender-level team that simply lacked a competent quarterback.
But nostalgia can cloud judgement.
Now, the Giants’ restoration project is delayed by a year or two. Manning has already wasted the 2018 season in Giants colors, and he’ll waste another as he watches from the sidelines for the next 15 weeks.
By season’s end, he’ll be days away from his 39th birthday with his free agency prospects — and possibly his desire to start over again — diminished further than they would have been the last two years.
Meanwhile, the Giants will try once again to get it right. But based on the indecision that has plagued them for years now, it’s anyone’s guess how that attempt to get this thing back on track will go.
Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New York Giants: Eli Manning deserved better than team’s benching
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