Not even the New York Giants opposing head coach in Week 17 could have predicted what happened to the organization and quarterback Eli Manning three weeks ago.
The benching of Manning, who up to that point had started 210 consecutive games, likely caused the firing of head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese a week later. As such, Manning’s benching and subsequent resumption of starting duties that very next week has been the dominant storyline of this 2-13 Giants season.
A season that mercifully comes to a close this Sunday against the Washington Redskins. And for Washington head coach Jay Gruden, the benching of Manning during this difficult season is something he didn’t exactly see coming.
“I never would have predicted Eli Manning getting benched. That’s for sure. I think he’s one of the best quarterbacks around here. He’s done so much in his career, done so many great things,” Gruden said Wednesday in a conference call with the New York media. “But, in pro football, if you hang around long enough, nothing surprises you anymore. So, unfortunately he did for him, but of course he weathered the storm and he’s starting again. Definitely surprising, but he accepted it and adjusted and he’s back.”
The Giants certainly are not playoff bound and the same can be said for Washington, who again have gone through another year without a postseason berth. This makes Sunday’s game irrelevant except for where each team picks in next spring’s NFL Draft.
Gruden, not shockingly, isn’t one of those saying that Sunday’s game doesn’t matter.
“I think a lot of people look into that and probably say it would be, but for us it hasn’t been, I don’t think. Anytime you play the New York Giants in Giants Stadium – I think it’s going to be a heck of a great test,” Gruden said. “They were able to come in here, they didn’t have anything to play for last year – knocked us out of the playoffs and they still have a lot of great players and I know they have a lot of great competitors based on what I see on film. Anytime you strap up, put a helmet on, shoulder pads and you’re out there competing – people are going to try to win and that’s what I anticipate on Sunday.”