The team defied conventional wisdom and selected Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick in last April’s NFL Draft. Jones was the highest quarterback selection since Philip Rivers was picked fourth overall in 2004 and subsequently traded to the then-San Diego Chargers for Manning. Anyone with a modicum of common sense knew that once Jones was selected, it would only be a matter of time before he plays in meaningful games.
It just wasn’t supposed to happen this quickly.
On Tuesday, head coach Pat Shurmur announced Jones will be the starter in Week 3 when the Giants travel to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For just the second time in the Giants’ last 234 regular season games, No. 10 will be on the sideline with a clipboard.
There has been no shortage of opinion on television and social media since the Giants announced their quarterback change. Most of it has centered on the belief that Manning is holding the team back and elevating Jones will cure what ails the Giants. There is also chatter over whether or not his NFL resume is worthy of enshrinement in Canton.
Naturally, the Giants didn’t draft Jones to sit on the bench and Manning will turn 39 a few days after the end of the regular season. The tenures of both Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman are directly tied into Jones’ success or failure at the NFL level. Simply put, they have to play Jones just like Tom Coughlin had to insert Manning as the starter nearly 15 years ago.
On Tuesday, the team decided to make a change that many knew was coming. The reaction to the news proves Manning is one of the most underrated, underappreciated championship athletes in the history of professional sports.
Manning has been accused of holding the Giants hostage and that simply isn’t true. If anything, the team didn’t always surround him with the talent necessary for him to be successful.
When Manning arrived in East Rutherford, he was a classic pocket passer who could throw the deep ball with a penchant for late game heroics. He was at best when the team provided him with a great offensive line, a stout running game, and a receiving corps that could move the chains when their number was called.
Because of front office incompetence and the passage of time, Manning turned into a game manager who dumped the ball off and threw a bunch of short slant routes. The Giants brain trust forgot a quality offensive line is needed to keep their classic pocket passer quarterback upright since he was never close to being mobile.
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The Giants finished below .500 in five of the past six seasons. Manning has made more than $200 million as an NFL quarterback and he’s going to receive the brunt of the criticism when the team is playing poorly. At the same time, when the team was successful it was always in spite of him.
Manning has always been somewhat of an enigma, simultaneously the beneficiary of and cursed by his last name. His personality and temperament served him well playing in the nation’s largest media market but also opened him to criticism and ridicule. There were snickers when he had the audacity to clap back at Tiki Barber or express confidence in his own abilities by saying he’s an elite quarterback. Perhaps the biggest knock on him is that he’s not Peyton.
In spite of the noise, Manning compiled a resume that is worthy of him getting a gold jacket five years after he hangs up his cleats. After all, there aren’t that many quarterbacks with at least 4,860 completions, 56,537 passing yards, 362 touchdowns, two Super Bowl MVPs., a quarterback ironman streak of 210 games, and every significant passing record of one of the NFL’s oldest franchises.
At the end of the day, this is the National Football League, the ultimate team game. The Giants have spent the last seven seasons in rebuild mode, 2016 notwithstanding. Daniel Jones is 22 years old. He’s mobile, can throw the ball deep, and is perfect for today’s NFL which mirrors the college game more than ever before. The Giants need to find out if he’s the real deal or if the preseason was an aberration.
Still, starting Jones is the equivalent of putting a bandage on a broken leg. After all, it’s not Manning’s fault the defense has surrendered 63 points in two games and unable to generate a pass rush. It’s also not his fault the Giants found themselves minus three wide receivers against the Buffalo Bills. Nonetheless, the team had to make this move even if the timing is a headscratcher.
Father Time is undefeated and there is a changing of the guard at the quarterback position. Demotion is part of life in the NFL and Eli Manning certainly is aware of that. He doesn’t deserve all the blame for the current state of the team. Ownership and the coaching staff have a huge role in this tragedy of errors.
At least for now, if the Giants don’t win, the blame won’t be with No. 10.