John Mara: No Easy Way to Transition from Eli Manning

New York Giants co-owner John Mara thought the team had come up with a plan to ease the eventual transition from quarterback Eli Manning to either Geno Smith or Davis Webb seamlessly.

Unfortunately for Mara and the Giants, they weren’t counting on Manning rejecting the plan, which was to allow him to start the next five games only to yield to either Webb or Smith for some meaning full snaps.

So said Mara, who met with the media to discuss the decision he said first began a couple of weeks ago when he met with general manager Jerry Reese about figuring out a way to get a better idea of what they have in Webb and Smith while also allowing Manning to keep his consecutive games started streak alive.

“I had conversation with Jerry a week or two ago,” Mara said. “I mentioned to him ‘don’t you think it’s time we start to get a look at these other quarterbacks at some point during the games? He agreed and said he had a conversation with Ben (McAdoo) about that.

“Jerry called me on Monday afternoon to tell me that Ben was going to speak with Eli (and tell him) that he would continue to start the game, but that at some point, Geno would come into the game.

“Tuesday Jerry called me and said Eli had informed Ben that if you’re going to play Geno in the second half, you might as well just start him because it wasn’t fair to Geno or to Eli. He also wanted us to put out a statement announcing that so that’s what we did.”

And so began what Mara called a “sad day” in the franchise, a day viewed by many as the Giants first steps as moving on from Manning, a beloved figure who has brought two Super Bowl championships to the franchise.

Mara, speaking to reporters for 15 minutes, said he met with Manning Wednesday morning and that he fully understood the quarterback’s position about not wanting to share snaps in a game.

“I had a good talk with him, very emotional talk. He’s obviously not happy with the decision, but he understands it,” Mara said.

“He doesn’t want the streak to be tarnished. But I was hoping that he would come in and play and be playing well and maybe have a chance to win the game and stay in there, but he understands we have to look at the other quarterbacks because he’s not going to play forever. I understand (Manning’s opinion) and I respect it.”

Mara, who at least twice said he was embarrassed by the team’s 2-9 record, said that with a potential top-3 draft pick next spring, it was important to start getting a feel for what they have in Geno Smith and David Webb in meaningful games.

“I don’t know that this is going to give us all the information we need, but it’s better than nothing, better than watching them run scout team every day,” Mara said.

“With quarterbacks, you don’t know what you have until they’re out there facing the pass rush, making decisions and making plays, so we want to get whatever info we can.”

But Mara, who said that Manning didn’t demand to be traded or released from his contract, did admit that in retrospect, the whole situation could have been handled a little bit differently.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that when you get to a decision like this there’s no completely clean way to handle it,” he said.

“It was presented the way Ben thought it should be presented. Could we have done it differently? I guess you can argue that, yes. The point was we didn’t want him on the bench. We wanted to start him and work the other guys in.”

Mara, who was attending league meetings in Manhattan Tuesday, also said he wished he could have redone the timing.

“I wish I could have been here. I did not expect Eli to react by saying, ‘Go ahead and start the other guys.’ After speaking to him I completely understand his view. He’s a competitor; he wants to be out there playing and trying to win.”

With all that went down, is this the end of Manning’s tenure with the Giants?’

“No, and I don’t think you should be writing his obituary just yet,” Mara said. “A lot of things can change between next spring and next season. The reality is we have some tough decisions to make at the end of the year and who knows what’s going to happen.

“I think he can still win in the NFL. I hope it’s here but that will be a discussion for down the line,” he added.

Mara also made it clear that the team is not trying to tank the rest of the season to improve its draft position.

“That’s not the case. We’re still trying to win game. I read something somewhere wondering if we were going to tank the rest of the game. I would never allow that,” he said.

Can Smith and Webb make that happen?

“We’ll have to find out,” Mara said. “We’re 2-9. I accept the fact that we’re 2-9 and we’re completely defenseless when you have a record like that, particularly when the expectations were so high.

“It’s up to us to fix that going forward. One of the things we have to do is figure out whether one of these two guys can be a quarterback for us. I don’t know if we’ll have an answer to that by the end of the season but we weren’t going to have an answer unless we got them into the game.”