Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning had a front row seat to Sunday’s eulogy for his tenure with the New York Giants. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones’ throwing arm was the preacher, and the diverse group of offensive weapons that used to belong to Manning were his pallbearers.
A game-winning fourth quarter drive with a climactic rushing touchdown by the No. 6 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft was the football version of “Amazing Grace” as the coffin carrying the Manning era in New York was slowly lowered into the ground.
Jones celebrating on the field with his teammates after bringing the Giants back from an 18-point deficit, while Manning stood on the sidelines wearing a ball cap and a headset, had to be one of the most bittersweet moments in the franchise’s history.
On one hand, it signaled the potential revival of what was perceived as a dead in the water team, but it also served as the swan song in a career’s journey for one of the classiest players that ever stepped onto the field.
The Giants did Manning no favors by allowing this inevitable transition to drag out over the years. It was as clear as day that Father Time had robbed him of his special gifts, and yet, the team persisted on with a blindfold, desperately hoping he could turn back the clock.
But the clock sprung forward faster each season.
Former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo was without question ahead of his time in his decision to bench Manning back in 2017, although it ultimately resulted in his firing.
There was tremendous pushback to do right by Manning so much to the point that it blatantly ignored the Giants’ predicament. They were no longer a championship contending team. Win-now had suddenly shifted to win-later, and Manning was oddly out of place as an aged starter on a rebuilding football team.
Cutting the cord earlier would have given Manning a chance to compete for a championship elsewhere with a more established roster, while giving the Giants an opportunity to wipe the slate clean without any awkward break-up vibes.
Unless Manning is traded, fans should get used to him mentoring on the sidelines and fulfilling his duties as a backup quarterback.
Being supportive and a great teammate is something that comes naturally for him, but make no mistake, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that he’s actually happy about Jones taking his job. It’s simply impossible to avoid the heartache and disappointment of going from being a 16-year starter to riding the bench behind a 22-year-old replacement.
So enough of the “proud papa” descriptions. Manning is not in a fun place right now.
It’s a place he’ll have to stay as long as he’s a member of the Giants after Jones threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns against a Todd Bowles-coached Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.
Even if the rookie struggles at some point in the season, it’s imperative the Giants ride out those hard times and simply lump them into the experience category.
It’s a wonder the Giants didn’t start Jones at the beginning of the season, particularly after he lit up opposing teams in the preseason.
That inkling of hesitation was likely due to coach Pat Shurmur remembering what happened to McAdoo when he made the decision to bench Manning. Of course, McAdoo never had a potential transcendental talent on his roster like Jones to absorb the blow-back aimed in his direction.
No one made a fuss when Shurmur arrived at the same decision in Week 3. Not even Manning could fight the inevitable change that had to be made.
It brought an emphatic end to an incredible era for the Giants, while simultaneously birthing a new one—a Jones-led era brimming with the potential to take the franchise back to the same nosebleed heights as a prime Eli Manning.