The New York Giants are benching quarterback Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith. Smith will start in Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
“Over the last five games, we will take a look at Geno, and we will also give (rookie) Davis (Webb) an opportunity,” head coach Ben McAdoo said in a statement.
The Giants are 2-9 in a season marred by injuries and substandard play. They haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in their past two games: a surprise win against the Kansas City Chiefs and a Thanksgiving night loss to the Washington Redskins that officially eliminated them from postseason contention. The Giants are only scoring 15.6 points per game, only the winless Cleveland Browns score fewer points.
General manager Jerry Reese said the team is making the quarterback change with the intent on looking at other quarterbacks for the future.
“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,” Reese said. “I told Eli this morning that an organization could not ask for 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.”
Manning was selected first overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 2004 NFL Draft. He was traded to the Giants on draft day for the rights to Philip Rivers (whom the Giants selected fourth) and two draft picks. He became the Giants’ full-time starter on Nov. 21, 2004: a 14-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Manning started 210 consecutive regular season games and 12 postseason games for the Giants. He is second all-time only to Brett Favre’s 297 consecutive regular season and 24 postseasons starts for the Green Bay Packers from Sept. 27, 1992 to Dec. 5, 2010.
Manning was given the option of starting in Sunday’s game to continue the streak. He refused.
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“Coach McAdoo told me I could continue to start while Geno and Davis are given an opportunity to play,” Manning said. “My feeling is that if you are going to play the other guys, play them. Starting them 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.”
Smith will become the first quarterback of African descent to start a game for the Giants, the only NFL franchise who hasn’t started a Black quarterback. In addition, he will become the only quarterback to start a game for both the Giants and their stadium mates, the New York Jets, in the Super Bowl era.
“Great opportunity, I look forward to Sunday,” Smith said in an interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson. “I look forward to being at my best and playing well.”
The Jets selected Smith 39th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. He hasn’t played since tearing his ACL in a Week 7 game against the Baltimore Ravens last season. Smith was placed on injured reserve after season-ending surgery. He won the Giants’ backup job in training camp, ousting journeyman Josh Johnson.
Smith has 501 completions in 868 attempts for 5,962 yards, 28 touchdowns, 36 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 72.3 in his NFL career. He also has 646 yards on 136 carries and seven touchdowns. Smith’s record as a starter is 12-18.
Webb, the 87th overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, is the Giants’ highest quarterback selection since drafting Rivers and trading for Manning. The original plan for Webb, who ran an Air Raid offense at both Texas Tech and California, was sit back and learn the nuances of being an NFL quarterback from Manning.
Manning will be Smith’s backup against the Raiders. He holds the franchise records for most passing yards (50,625), touchdown passes (334), and completions (4,319). Manning is currently ranked seventh all-time in both touchdowns and passing yards. He has 247 completions in 395 attempts for 2,411 yards, 14 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 84.1 this season.
Manning’s overall record as the Giants’ starter is 118-114 (110-100 regular season, 8-4 postseason), including victories in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.