John Mara signed off on the wrong benching. Scratch that. John Mara signed off on the wrong benchings. The decision makers behind this move should have been given a seat, not quarterback Eli Manning.
In a move that still doesn’t feel real, Manning was benched on Wednesday, a move made by head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese that reeks of not just desperation, but incompetence. The kind of gross incompetence that sees a playoff team go from 11-5 a year ago to 2-9 this season, making the Giants one of the first teams in the league to be eliminated from playoff contention.
But Mara’s approval, whether tacit or complicit or perhaps even fully endorsed by the Giants owner, is directed at the wrong people.
It is not Manning who should have been benched. Rather, it is McAdoo and Reese. And not timeout, time to sit in the corner kind of benching.
These two should have been fired by Mara the moment they suggested that Manning see the sidelines.
This season isn’t Manning’s fault and he shouldn’t be the fall guy here. This season was built on overspending last offseason by Reese and the failure to build an offensive line that could compete — again a massive failing by Reese. There was the inability to develop a running game, a fault that falls on McAdoo. And there’s been the two-year struggle by the Giants head coach to corral the antics by wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
There is plenty of blame to go around, but to bench Manning given all that he’s meant to this franchise in a season that doesn’t fall on his shoulders is beyond insipid.
The lineage for Manning over the past 210 consecutive starts in Giants’ blue is as impressive as any quarterback in franchise history. His four Pro Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl titles and two Super Bowl MVP's rank him among the best quarterbacks of his generation.
Make no mistakes about it, Manning is an elite quarterback.
But his past laurels shouldn’t be enough to keep him in the starting lineup and yet this season hasn’t seen a significant drop in his form (if any). There are key indicators here that despite the numbers of sacks and hits he’s taken this year that Manning is still playing well.
Well enough, certainly, that he should be the Giants starter this weekend.
Despite playing behind the league’s worst offensive line and without Beckham as well as number two target Brandon Marshall for much of the year, Manning has still kept pace with previous years.
Even as he’s had to throw the ball quickly — Manning’s release time this year from the pocket is among the fastest in the league, in large part due to sheer survival given the state of his offensive line — he has maintained a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio that is better than his career average. In addition, his 62.5 completion percentage is several ticks above his career average.
Those numbers show a quarterback who can still make the throws, who is limiting mistakes. That his wide receivers are among the league leaders in drops, that he’s taken more hits this year than some quarterbacks take in a lifetime — all those things explain far more about this inept offense than anything Manning has or hasn’t shown this year.
Manning isn’t the Giants biggest problem. The team built around him based on the buffoonery of McAdoo and Reese is the far bigger issue.
One can understand the Giants wanting to wait out the year before moving on from this clown show of a head coach and general manager. But for Mara to give the proverbial thumbs up on this decision to bench the best quarterback in franchise history is puzzling, bizarre and something so insane that it seems otherworldly for a franchise that prides itself on tradition and legacy.
Manning deserves better than this given not just his class and significance within the pages of this team’s annals but the fact that he simply isn’t to blame for this year’s precipitous tumble down the standings. The eventual firing of McAdoo and Reese will come soon enough but it should have been those two and not Manning who got benched on Tuesday.
Send in the clowns.