For the first time since 1998, a Manning brother will not be playing in an NFL game this week. In a move that fellow quarterback Phillip Rivers called “pathetic”, the Giants benched Eli Manning in favor of evaluating Geno Smith and rookie Davis Webb. While they offered to give him the start so that he could keep up his Iron Man streak (210 consecutive games started), he declined the offer.
Frankly, I don’t consider myself an Eli Manning fan. I don’t believe he has ever been an elite quarterback, and I definitely don’t believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants decided to move on, and I would completely support that move. However, I agree with Rivers’ assessment of the situation. Eli Manning has been the face of the franchise since his first legendary Super Bowl win, if not earlier. I get that the coach, Ben McAdoo, wants to see what he has in his young backups. But this isn’t the Browns, who are in search of a consistent starter. This isn’t a high school team with Seniors graduating yearly. In Eli Manning the organization has an established, albeit sometimes erratic, franchise quarterback. Use him. It doesn’t matter if you’re 2-9. Benching him is a show of blatant disrespect to the game, the fans, and most notably, Eli Manning.
This is the end of an era, as this move signals that Eli Manning will not be a New York Giant next season. The circumstances surrounding his benching are all the more ironic when one looks back on his arrival to the league, in which Kurt Warner was benched for the young rookie. However, Eli Manning deserves a great deal of respect as he has taken his fall from grace with dignity. I look forward to seeing one of the most respected quarterbacks of this generation play out the rest of his career.