By Lenn Robbins
Safe to say in their storied history, the Giants have never absorbed a 1-2 punch like this.
Eli Manning, the second son of a regal football family, had become the No.1 quarterback the Giants have ever known. Two Super Bowl titles. Two Super Bowl MVPs. Zero embarrassing moments in a city that has made a fool of millions.
He was benched on Tuesday. A 2019 knockout punch.
The end of an era. Sixteen seasons, 233 games, 231 starts, 56,287 yards and 361 touchdown passes came to an end in the form of a press release.
“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,’’ coach Pat Shurmur said in a statement.
Good teammate, for sure. Better person, no doubt. Fall guy? Of course.
Manning’s benching came two days after the Giants dropped a 28-14 decision to the Buffalo Bills, a loss that dropped them to 0-2.
Has Manning been bad? Yep. Has the entire offense been bad? Yep. Has the defense been bad? Yep. Have the special teams been bad? Yep. Coaching? Yep.
Front office? Yes! Hell yes!
The 0-2 start is not an indictment of Manning. It’s a referendum on how lacking this roster is in elite talent.
With the exception of Saquon Barkley, is there one difference maker, one player that keeps an opposing offensive and/or defensive coordinator downing Red Bulls at 3 a.m.? No.
The only other game-changing offensive player the Giants had was on full display Monday night in MetLife Stadium, the building Big Blue calls home, in the Cleveland Browns 23-3 win over the Jets.
Odell Beckham Jr., the most exciting wide receiver in the game, was traded away because GM David Gettleman didn’t believe he fit the culture in East Rutherford.
That culture is in shambles today.
The Giants are the Miami Dolphins of the north.
One day after Beckham torched the Jets for 161 yards receiving and one touchdown, the Giants decided this was the best day to bench Manning in favor of the player that was drafted as his replacement.
Daniel Jones will start at quarterback Sunday when the Giants play at Tampa Bay. A road game. Nothing like giving a rookie his first start on the road.
We all knew, Eli knew, that sooner or later the Giants would turn to Jones, the No.6 pick in the 2019 draft. So it begs the question, ‘Why didn’t Jones get more than some mop up time in these first two games?”
Why has he only been getting backup reps in practice and splitting time with Alex Tanney on the scout team?
The Giants weren’t going to win these first two games. Not with this roster; not with this management.
It doesn’t matter if Jones turns out to be a franchise quarterback. Given his skill set as a pocket passer, he will never provide the jaw-dropping, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me moments OBJ dropped on us, not once, but twice.
He made one of his patented one-handed, ‘did you see that?!’ catches in the first quarter for 33 yards. He turned a short slant into the longest catch and run of his NFL career, an 89-yarder.
If OBJ was still a Giant even he couldn’t have prevented a third straight 0-2 start. This franchise has bigger problems – a GM that claims to have an impressive resume; ownership that cares but is stuck in the past, reacting instead of proacting.
The Giants should have taken a page out of the New York Rangers playbook. In February of 2018, management sent fans an email stating they were building for the future. Translation: The current season will be an audition for future roles.
That’s what the rest of this season is for Big Blue. Jones’ audition for the lead role begins Sunday. He should make friends with Barkley immediately. It’s all he has.
Manning will say the right things. He’ll hold the clipboard and help Jones as best he can. But no one can get this franchise off the canvas. This 1-2 punch ended the season, and if Jones fails, many more to come.