What’s Going on With Davis Webb?

A look at why the rookie third-round draft pick continues to be inactive.

New York Giants rookie quarterback Davis Webb just finished his 14th straight week on the inactive list, much to the chagrin of fans and analysts who have been screaming for Webb to get into a game for weeks.

And if you’re hoping for that to change any time soon, you might be out of luck, as interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo, when asked if it was a safe to assume that Eli Manning would be the starter next week against the Caridnals, said, “Yeah. You can – that’s a pretty good assessment.”

Where does that leave Webb, the Giants’ third-round draft pick who has been patiently waiting to get into a game? And will we see him at all this year?

Let’s try to answer some of those questions.

Why haven’t the Giants been getting Webb ready all along?

This probably goes back to what McAdoo said when Webb was drafted, which was the plan was to have the rookie be the No. 3 quarterback for this year, to let him sit and learn behind Eli Manning, and get him ready for the future.

The plan made sense at the time because let’s face it: who out there realistically thought that the Giants season would go so horribly wrong?

This was a team that was coming off an 11-5 record and who had its eye on a bigger prize this year. While the coaching staff worked with Webb to get him ready, in the grand scheme of things, one gets the impression that the coaching staff was more concerned with getting the team ready for a potential playoff bound season and subsequent playoff run.

Okay, but it took the Giants started off 0-5, which put their season on life support anyway. So why not start getting Webb ready then?

You can go back to the 2013 season as a likely reason. That Giants team started out 0-6, but managed to steady the ship and get themselves back into the postseason hunt as late as Week 15 of that season. While it would have taken some help from other teams, the Giants that year still had a chance.

Fast forward to 2017. Even as things were starting to fall apart around them, McAdoo never lost faith in the team’s ability to get the ship back on course.

While in retrospect one might argue he was delusional, in reality, McAdoo did what any head coach would have done: He never let the confidence in himself, the coaches and the players wane. And for as long as the Giants had a chance to make a playoff run, no matter how unrealistic that chance really was, he wasn’t going to jeopardize things.

So when McAdoo finally decided to look at another quarterback, why did he turn to Geno Smith and not Webb?

See the previous answer. The coaching staff likely didn’t feel Webb was far enough along in his progress to be trusted out there. Plus at that point, it was widely believed that McAdoo was trying to save his job which is why he likely turned to Geno Smith, a more mobile quarterback whom he might have thought could run the offense a bit better than Manning.

Thomas George, of SB Nation detailed such a possibility. From George:

“We do not know if McAdoo has been clamoring for this move for some time but simply was not allowed to execute it by Mara. But what we do know is that McAdoo, for some time, has been chirping in the Giants’ building to others about Manning’s lack of arm strength, lack of mobility, bad decisions, and an inability to win with him. Two different Giants coaches told me on Tuesday night that they have heard this barking/analysis from both McAdoo and Giants quarterback coach Frank Cignetti Jr.”

Wait, didn’t John Mara order the coaching staff to look at Webb?

Not exactly. When Mara spoke to the media the week after Eli Manning ended up being benched, he provided some context regarding the conversations he had had with then general manager Jerry Reese about the team.

“I normally don’t speak to the coach directly about which players are playing and which players aren’t playing. I’ll have that conversation with Jerry,” Mara said.

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

In his recollection of what happened to the media, Mara never mentioned Webb by name. Whether he did to Reese and whether Reese mentioned Webb by name to McAdoo is something we’ll never know, but if we connect the dots between what Mara said and what George reported, something clearly got lost in the translation.

Ok, so why hasn’t Steve Spagnuolo turned to Webb now that McAdoo is gone and the Giants have nothing to play for other than a top-3 draft pick?

Spagnuolo has spent each of his last three seasons with the Giants on the defensive side of the ball. The head coaching job was dropped in his lap mid-stream leaving him with very little opportunity to evaluate that side of the ball, something he’s admitted to.

Simply put, Spagnuolo probably has a basic understanding of the Giants offensive scheme. Had he been the head coach from the get-go, his knowledge probably would have been a little more advanced.

Even though things have settled down a bit, right now he’s still kind of flying by the seat of his pants and with less than a month to go before this abysmal season ends, there’s only so much information Spagnuolo can likely add to his knowledge of the Giants’ offense at this point, especially since he still holds the defensive coordinator role.

So how are they going to know what they have in Webb if he doesn’t play?

They can tell certain things, such as his ability to grasp the system via his work in the classroom, and his mechanics in practice.

But here’s the other part of the equation. Given how inconsistent the offensive line has been, how can one gauge whether Webb can read an NFL defense if he doesn’t have consistent protection or if he’s getting bounced around like a pinball out there?

The answer is they can’t, so why run the risk of having the kid suffer an injury when he doesn’t have the foundation to get himself out of trouble as Manning and Geno Smith do right now?

Does that mean they don’t draft a quarterback next year?

Not at all. Every team needs a solid starter and a solid backup—just look at the 1990 Giants. Jeff Hostetler, like Webb, was a third-round draft pick of the Giants who had a very successful career backing up Phil Simms.

When Simms went down in 1990, Hostetler stepped up and the Giants didn’t miss a beat that season, marching all the way to their second Super Bowl championship.  So, who’s to say that history doesn’t repeat itself next year?

Is there any chance Webb plays next week against the Arizona Cardinals?

That’s hard to say given that only the coaches know how close Webb is to go. So while you never say never, early indications are that, barring injury, it will be Eli Manning under center the rest of the way.