Eli Manning Benched for Geno Smith in Week 13 vs. Raiders; Ends Starts Streak

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2017

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 5: Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants walks off the field after throwing an interception against the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium on November 5, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

For the first time since 2004, the New York Giants have a new starting quarterback. Head coach Ben McAdoo announced Tuesday he will start Geno Smith instead of Eli Manning in Week 13 against the Oakland Raiders

"Geno will start this week," McAdoo said, per Michael Eisen of the Giants' official site. "Over the last five games, we will take a look at Geno, and we will also give Davis [Webb] an opportunity."

Dan Duggan of NJ Advanced Media provided a statement on the decision from general manager Jerry Reese:

The decision ends Manning's streak of 210 consecutive starts, which dates back to his rookie year in 2004.

Manning said he turned down the opportunity to continue starting while Smith and Webb competed for snaps:

"My feeling is that if you are going to play the other guys, play them. Starting just to keep the streak going and knowing you won’t finish the game and have a chance to win it is pointless to me, and it tarnishes the streak. Like I always have, I will be ready to play if and when I am needed. I will help Geno and Davis prepare to play as well as they possibly can."

Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News provided a video of an emotional Manning discussing the decision:

Former Giants head coach and current Jacksonville Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin commented on the news on 1010 XL in Jacksonville, via Mike Garafolo of NFL Network: 

"Surprised is not the word. My sentiments are totally with Eli Manning. ... He's a class act, a two-time Super Bowl champ, one of the finest, most humble men in that locker room. ... I was very upset about when I heard that."

McAdoo's decision comes after the Giants lost nine of their first 11 games. 

After New York's 51-17 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 9, McAdoo left the door open for a quarterback change.

While Manning hasn't been great in 2017, blaming him for all of the offense's struggles would be unfair.

The 36-year-old has thrown for 2,411 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions and completed 62.5 percent of his passes. Football Outsiders ranks Manning 18th among quarterbacks in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement).

Odell Beckham Jr.'s season-ending ankle injury has had a bigger impact on the Giants' fortunes in 2017 than Manning's performance.

New York's defense has also taken a step backward, going from second in defensive efficiency in 2016 to 22nd this season, according to Football Outsiders.

Making the switch from Manning to Smith is likely less about turning the 2017 campaign around and more about planning for a post-Manning future.

Manning is under contract with the Giants through the 2019 season. According to Over the Cap, he'd count for $12.4 million against the salary cap and clear $9.8 million off the books were New York to cut him after the season. Those totals would be $6.2 million and $17 million, respectively, in 2019.

If the Giants are willing to bench Manning, then the idea they'd release him outright in the offseason isn't outrageous.

It's doubtful Smith is the long-term answer at quarterback. He struggled in his first two years with the New York Jets in 2013 and 2014 and has made one start in the last three seasons.

New York may use this opportunity to get a rough idea whether Webb is worthy of being a starting quarterback in the NFL.

The Giants selected Webb with the 87th overall pick in the 2017 draft. In his first two years at Texas Tech, Webb threw for 5,257 yards, 44 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Webb spent his final season at California. His 4,295 passing yards were sixth-most in FBS, and he was tied for eighth in passing touchdowns (37).

Should Webb or Smith finish out the year as the starter, Tuesday's announcement could represent the beginning of the end for Manning as a Giants player.