Benching of Manning signals end of era for Giants

Eli Manning looks distraught on the sidelineThe Eli Manning era is nearing its end for the New York Giants. Head coach Ben McAdoo announced Tuesday that the Giants, who are a disappointing 2-9 this season after making the playoffs in 2016, will start Geno Smith in their next game, ending Manning’s streak of consecutive starts at 210. Manning won two Super Bowls during his time with New York, but the 36-year-old does not appear to be in the team’s rebuilding plans.

For better and for worse, Manning has been the face of the Giants for more than a decade. He is revered by Giants fans for the Super Bowl victories he helmed, but he has also been routinely criticized for his high interception rate. Manning threw 27 picks in 2013 alone, and his general effectiveness has been steadily declining since 2014. Age appears to be catching up with Manning, who recently reached 50,000 career passing yards, and with New York as well. Whatever luck Manning and the Giants had in making the playoffs last season has disappeared, leaving both sides with some tough decisions to make.

“This is not a statement about anything other than we are 2-9, and we have to do what is best for the organization moving forward, and that means evaluating every position,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said in a statement about the decision. “I told Eli this morning that an organization could not ask for any more in a franchise quarterback. He has been that and more. Nobody knows what the future holds, but right now, this is what we think is best for the franchise.”

Smith, who was drafted by the New York Jets, will become the first quarterback to play for both New York franchises in the Super Bowl era. He is also the Giants’ first African-American quarterback, although there are no guarantees he will be sticking around very long. Starting Smith is a sign the Giants are using the remainder of this season to plan for the future, and it appears likely they will give rookie Davis Webb opportunities to play as well. Smith and Webb will have their hands full trying to revive New York’s anemic offense, which sits near the bottom of the league in points per game with 15.5.

If Manning wants to play in 2018, he will need to find another franchise interested in his services. One possible destination could be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have a struggling young starter in Blake Bortles, as well as Manning’s former coach Tom Coughlin in the team’s front office. Coughlin and Manning won championships together, and Jacksonville has put together a strong team outside of Bortles. Or perhaps Manning will follow in the footsteps of his brother and join the Denver Broncos, who have yet to find a suitable starting quarterback since Peyton Manning retired.