COLUMN | Eli Manning Is Probably Starting on Sunday…But Should He?

With the employment of head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese officially terminated, order is expected to, at least temporarily, be restored in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

While the New York Giants gave no official confirmation on Monday, discussing instead the monumental firings of McAdoo and Reese, quarterback Eli Manning is expected to return to his customary position as Giants starting quarterback for Sunday’s divisional showdown with the Dallas Cowboys (1:00 PM, FOX).

Giants fans were vocal in their displeasure about the Manning’s ousting, which ended a streak of 210 consecutive games that began with #10 under center.

They’ve already made it clear on social media that ending Manning’s streak is going to be the departed McAdoo’s legacy, and that some are just going to carry on Manning’s streak as if nothing happened, ignoring Sunday’s losing trip to Oakland like Star Wars fans try to forget the prequel series.

Seeing anyone under center other than Manning for the Giants seems unthinkable. It’s like Henrik Lundqvist in net for the Rangers, or Hugh Jackman in the role of Wolverine–anyone else in the role give feelings of utmost discomfort to the viewers and fans.

MetLife Stadium will no doubt rock if and when Manning enters Sunday’s game (provided the Giants faithful hasn’t already sold off their tickets to members of the Cowboys’ national fanbase), and rightfully so. It gives the fans a chance to officially start a farewell tour, prepare for the inevitable transition.

But the questions is, a question that seems almost silly to ask after all the horrifying reaction generated last week: Should Manning start on Sunday?

In case you haven’t heard, the 2-10 Giants are done. You can’t even spread the Jim Carrey “So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance…” memes from Dumb and Dumber.

As fun as it would be for Giants fans to watch Manning lead a charge that more or less destroys the Cowboys’ fledgling playoff hopes (and also prevent the Eagles, who visit MetLife on December 17, from clinching NFC home field advantage), do fans really want to see Manning waste whatever prime he has left sluggling it out in meaningless games?

In a gift from perhaps the most twisted area of Santa’s workshop, the Giants have been given a portion on the schedule that gives them absolutely nothing to lose.

Their playoff fate long sealed, the Giants have an area in which to conduct all kinds of experiments for 2018 and beyond, determining who will get a contract, who will start, and who will have to seek employment elsewhere. Simply put, it’s not a portion that a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP should subject himself to.

Painful as it was to conceive and deal with, the idea of sitting Manning made sense in theory. Giants fans were furious, rightfully so, at the choice of replacement, as Jets washout Geno Smith was given the nod under the guise of “evaluation.”

Had the Giants instead subbed in Davis Webb, their highest selection of a quarterback since that fateful draft day in 2004, fans would still be upset, but would also provide a sense of understanding.

Nothing good lasts forever, and eventually there is going to be a year that features zero Eli Manning starts. Webb is not an Andre Woodson, a Rhett Bomar, or even a Ryan Nassib. Unlike those previous Giants quarterback draftees, Webb is likely the first prospect the Giants have labeled as a true potential heir to the Manning throne.

And with the Giants undoubtedly having a high draft pick in a selection process featuring several highly touted names, you need to know what you have before making that decision on a Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, or Baker Mayfield.

To turn back to Manning now is almost a bit of an insult, acknowledgement that his benching was nothing more than caving in to the last stand of a desperation. Owner John Mara did sign off on the decision to sit him, but Mara was the one, albeit the only one with a public podium, that expressed remorse for the way things were handled.

“Ben came up with the plan. I initially signed off on the plan,” Mara explained, referring to the Giants’ original plan of letting Manning play the first half of the Raider game before sitting for Smith in the latter stage.

“My hope had been to talk to him to try to have a little more flexibility with it. Not have a hard, fast time when he was going to come out of the game. But, by then Eli rightfully had rejected the notion only starting and playing the half and coming out. We issued a statement and it was just too late at that point.”

Naturally, putting Webb in to fully analyze where this team stands on quarterback entering 2018 would likely draw empathy and understanding from the fans. Then again, McAdoo could’ve left a lasting mark, a final insult, in his handling of Webb.

Webb hasn’t dressed in pads once this season, much less play in a game. Per quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr., Webb was still splitting scout team reps with Smith as recently as the Giants’ November 19 showdown against the Chiefs, and McAdoo announced last week that no changes had been made to that routine, only vaguely referencing that “a plan (was) in place”. It’s unknown whether Spagnuolo will adapt that plan, as his first availability as Giants head coach will come on Wednesday.

Ben McAdoo is no longer with the team. Time will only tell, however, if there are repercussions that surface after his tenure. His tenure, 27 games, was the shortest of any Giants head coach in the Super Bowl era. The Giants, and their potential future stars, will have to hope that legacy doesn’t extend further.