I get the raw emotion about the Eli Manning benching with the Giants. Fans, former teammates, players around the league … mostly, they think Ben McAdoo is heartless, unnecessarily cruel and has no appreciation for the class of a great Giant. (All may be true.) They think this move is dumb. It’s not. It’s the right thing to do.
Regarding McAdoo’s handling of Manning’s benching, tell me: How exactly are you going to do the mechanics of replacing a quarterback who has started every game for your team since mid-2004, who is the best playoff quarterback in your history, who is one of the most clutch playoff quarterbacks of all time, who has won two Super Bowls for your franchise—each time against tremendous odds, and against the best team of the past 50 years? There is no good way. Every way stinks. But just because the decision is hard and will cause pain and tears doesn’t mean it should not be made. You are wounding one of the classiest players in the history of the league. But you’re doing it for the right reason. As Bo Schembechler once said, and as the Brothers Harbaugh have repeated time and again, when asked about motivation for this move or that move, the reason is: “The team. The team. The team.”
The Giants are 2-9, playing for nothing. And the most important thing for this franchise is to fact-find for 2018—particularly March and April 2018, when you have to decide if you want to use your top-five draft choice on a quarterback of the future, or if you want to ride a 37-year-old quarterback into his sunset. Maybe you want to do both. But think of the franchise here. Don’t think of the person. When the person is gone, the franchise has to keep playing the games, and the best thing for you to do is figure out everything you can about the people to replace that person. The way to do that is to find out what’s behind Manning.
My first thought upon hearing the decision was, Good idea. But do not tell me Geno Smith is starting. We’ve seen enough of Geno Smith. I want to see Davis Webb, the rookie gym rat from Cal, in all five of the games they’ve got left.
But then I thought, I don’t hate Smith starting for one week Sunday in the Black Hole in Oakland. Webb has been practicing solely as the scout team quarterback this year, mimicking what the opposing quarterback will do against the Giants defense. Presumably, either this week or next, Webb will start practicing with the Giants’ first and second offense. But one week for Smith. One week, while Webb gets his feet wet and makes final preparations to play the last four weeks so the Giants can see what they have in the young kid, starting Dec. 10 against a beat-up Dallas team.
As for what this means for the future, don’t assume anything. Four points to make:
1. We don’t know who the coach or GM is going to be next year, so we can’t know if this is the end for Manning with the Giants. Maybe COO John Mara knows what he’s going to do atop the team; my gut is that both McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese will be fired. But whether it’s Reese or some new GM, we’re not going to know Manning’s fate for a while. It’s easy to say, Eli will never suit up for the Giants after this season, but that’s an opinion. I can’t see the Giants having made the decision that Manning is definitely gone in the midst of this train-wreck season. There’s no logic to it.
2. Manning has become a Jersey guy, and he’s not a particularly emotional sort, so I doubt he thinks right now it’s definitely over for him in New Jersey. He used to split the year between Jersey and his southern home. Now he’s mostly a suburban Jersey guy, his kids in a great school, his life in total order. He’s invested in the area. I’ve always thought he’d never want to leave. This obviously could change things. But we’re all guessing about the future.
3. Manning’s smart enough to survey his options in 2018 before doing anything rash. The Broncos will want him, to be sure. John Elway could recreate history; six years after bringing Peyton Manning to Denver to reignite his career, he could do the same with his brother. Jacksonville too, with Tom Coughlin importing the prize passer he won two Super Bowls. But what if McAdoo gets fired and a coach who intrigues Manning—and who loves him—gets hired? What would Josh McDaniels or David Shaw think of Manning, and what would he think of them? Plus: Keeping Manning could allow the Giants to trade the second or third overall pick in 2018 (or whatever it turns out to be) for a treasure trove of draft choices if either the GM doesn’t love the college quarterback crop, or he feels Manning has three or four good years left.
4. His contract is a little tricky to trade. First: Manning has two years left, with $22 million in salary, $10 million in roster bonuses, and $1 million total in workout bonuses. Two years, $33 million. Reasonable. But Manning also has a no-trade clause in the deal. That means he could refuse a trade if he wants, or he could block a trade to teams he wouldn’t want to play. It also means if he chooses to waive the no-trade clause, the team that acquires him might have to sweeten the deal by adding either money or time to it. It seems fair, for instance, if Manning could get a year or two added to the deal if it puts him a little north of $20 million annually. My guess is four years, $80 million might be the floor for Denver or Jacksonville or some surprise team (Manning’s hometown of New Orleans, if Drew Brees walks, for instance). I can’t see Manning staying if he either doesn’t like the 2018 brain trust or, even after two months to let the anger dissipate, is still wounded by this. But as I say, Manning is more thoughtful than vengeful. He probably makes the best family and football decision, wherever that leads.
The more I see the Giants, the more I think Mara should fire McAdoo and Reese and start over with a new front office and coaching staff. The team is stale. Aside from the defensive free-agency home runs hit in 2016 and picking Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014, Reese has had some cold streaks in personnel, and he hasn’t gotten the line right in front of Manning. If Mara lets Reese pick another coach in 2018, what happens if the Giants go 5-11 in ’18 and want to cut ties with Reese? Then the new GM would be stuck with a coach he never picked. A clean break seems smartest. Then Manning can judge his best place for 2018, and the new guys can judge if they want Manning.
This is a new section of the Monday column this fall, as part of The MMQB’s partnership with State Farm. Each week, I ask an NFL person what his most valuable possession is, and why.
Everson Griffen, defensive end, Minnesota. “I would say my high school highlight tape, from Agua Fria High School in Avondale, Ariz.. I got a big house, I got cars. But I appreciate this tape so much, because when I turn on the tape, every time I click it on, it reminds me how much I love football, how hard I had to work to get good at it, and how much fun high school football was. We got a little song playing over the highlights, a country song … I don’t know what it is, but the words are something like, I don’t give a damn about nothing … Save a horse, ride a cowboy. I don’t know. It’s one of those songs I always think of. I played running back and rushed the quarterback. I rushed for like 1,250 yards and 24 touchdowns, and I had something like 16 and a half sacks that last year. Man, I loved it. That tape reminds me how much fun it was.”
Now for your email...
THANKS FOR SPEAKING OUT FOR WOMEN
I always look forward to Monday mornings, and as usual, you don't disappoint. Of all that I read, I was most affected by the quote of the female NFL reporter. As a father of two girls, and grandfather to two more, it greatly saddens me that women are put into this position. That they can not simply do their jobs. This is a topic, especially with all that is being reported lately, that we would expect our political leaders to take a lead, but sadly, that will not happen. So while it saddens me to read it, thank you for publishing this, as the only way things will improve is by getting it out in the open and having people realize they can not stay silent.
—Gary T., Monroe, Ga.
Thank you very much, Gary. The thanks really should go to Richard Deitsch, the great Sports Illustratedcolumnist who thought to do a longer piece talking to female reporters about their lot. I have two daughters too, and the way my wife and I raised them is to believe they could grow to be anything, and to do anything. It is discouraging that men in high places have so often, and so recently, been such cads as well-intentioned and hard-working women tried to climb the ladder.
IS BUFFALO A LITMUS TEST?
An observation and a question: It seems to me that beating the Bills this year has become some sort of litmus test for a team's legitimacy as a playoff contender. Note that some teams that lost to the Bills—Oakland, Denver, Kansas City, Tampa—had high hopes at the start of the season. Other teams that had less clear futures—the Chargers, Panthers, Saints—beat Buffalo and look bound for the postseason. I'm not sure what that says about Buffalo or about those other teams. My question is whether or not the Bills can take advantage of a weak AFC to make the playoffs given the fact that New England appears on their schedule twice in the coming weeks? Given my observation, I'd say that the Bills have beat themselves in a couple of games this year, so no.
—Dave B., Durham, N.C.
The Bills might make the playoffs, but I don’t see how they could beat the Steelers or Patriots on the road, and I think the Chargers are clearly better. Making the playoffs at 8-8 or 9-7 in one of the worst years the AFC has had in a long time should not be much of a positive sign for the Bills.
THE COWBOYS HAVE MORE CONSECUTIVE WINNING SEASONS THAN PATS
In today’s MMQB, you write that the Patriots now have the NFL record for consecutive winning seasons at 17. That’s actually close but not quite. The Dallas Cowboys have the NFL consecutive winning season record at 20: 1966 through 1985. Also, while New England is impressive, they’ve done it with one quarterback (with apologies to Matt Cassel and Jimmy Garoppolo for their contributions), while Tom Landry and the Cowboys did it with five—Meredith, Morton, Staubach, White, Hogeboom (and White again), with apologies to Clint Longley and Glenn Carano for their Garoppolo-esque contributions.
Thanks for pointing it out, Mark. Several others did, and I fixed it Monday morning. The Cowboys were great over two decades. By most historical standards, the Patriots have been better.
SOCIAL MEDIA SCREAMERS
In your MMQB this week, you made the comment that circumstances surrounding the Greg Schiano situation are “a disgrace to thinking people,” and that those that scream loud enough can overcome reason. I couldn’t agree with you more. To me, there are at least two consequences of this ongoing issue. First, the effort (or lack thereof) of decision makers, such as the Tennessee AD and his team, to perform due diligence and make decisions is becoming less relevant than making sure that the screamers agree with you. Second, thoughtful people are becoming less likely to be in positions of authority, as powerful people start to believe that only the decision’s reaction matters. It has become more important these days to scream than to think. Sports often mirror society, and I’m afraid that’s happening here. I’m hopeful that we’ve bottomed out on this issue, and that rationality and respect start coming back into vogue.
—Benjy T., Statesboro, Ga.
Thanks, Benjy. We’re in a strange time in our country’s history. Intelligence and thinking have been devalued. Who can yell the loudest has greater value. We’ll see how long it lasts. I’m hoping it’s a passing fad, but I can’t predict it.
YOU UNDERRATE MCQUEARY
Peter, what I think you’re overlooking in the Schiano story is the credibility of the people involved. Mike McQueary has incredible credentials as someone willing to speak up against power despite how it may impact him personally. If he said in a deposition that Tom Bradley told him that Schiano told him he saw Sandusky abusing a child, I believe him completely. Schiano’s admitting now that he saw something and failed to act or speak up through all the Penn State discovery is career suicide, and he doesn’t have the same credibility as McQueary. Your siding with Schiano is discrediting McQueary—he’s proven to be truthful.
I’ve heard that, David, and I respect McQueary for the chances he took that basically ruined his football career. But tell me: In the 400 pages of the investigative report that former FBI head Louis Freeh oversaw on the Sandusky case, Schiano’s name was not mentioned. In the grand jury testimony McQueary gave, and the hours of testimony he gave in the case, he never once mentioned the Schiano/Bradley story. The story was hearsay—McQueary said another coach, Tom Bradley, said it. After the 2015 McQueary deposition with the Schiano charge in it, no prosecutor went after Schiano for it. No attorney for a victim went after Schiano, a wealthy former NFL coach, for any damages. Schiano denied it. Bradley said it was not so. After all that, if you still want to believe Schiano saw something, you certainly can. But it would not be supported by facts.
The result of mainstream media is in turn a direct result of people on social media using their platform to announce a “guilty before proven innocent” verdict which is unfortunately the environment we live in now. How can you as columnist use your platform to continuously make it known your dismay for our current president? Can’t that be considered a mainstream media lynch mob attack, instead of a social media attack? Or can mainstream media also influence social media? However, this failed coaching hire is deemed a social injustice by you because the people/alumni of The University of Tennessee didn’t want a coach who potentially could have known about this abuse. This is now to be considered a social media lynch mob? Aren’t you in fact guilty of the same accusations that you are publicizing? I am fed up with the powerful left using every platform they can to push their agenda. I don’t want to see politics in my sports, and I surely don’t want to see them in my sports articles. I know you probably won’t read this and some intern will, but at least I got someone to read it.
My assistant and a staffer for The MMQB, Kalyn Kahler, chooses the mail each week, and I tell her I want to read what people really think. So I appreciate your email. A lot of people feel the way you feel, and I can’t say you’re wrong and I’m right. I don’t know if I’m right. I just know that when the president does something I consider absolutely stupid and insulting to the American people and terrible for the country, I’m going to point it out on Twitter or maybe in an opinion part of my column. He has debased the presidency and in turn the country, and, obviously, I’m not afraid of saying so. I never want to wake up one day if something truly disastrous happens as a direct result of this president’s actions or inactions and say, “Why didn’t I say anything? Why was I silent?” I respect your right to criticize me, but to say it’s a media lynch mob … Chad, I assume you didn’t spend any time in journalism school in your life. I just wish you had. We’re about calling it the way we see it, most of us, and about trying to report—and comment on—facts.
WE JUST DIDN’T WANT SCHIANO AS COACH
Actually, most of the Vol Nation objected to the Greg Schiano hire because we had just fired one megalomaniac, control freak of a coach in Butch Jones and were about to hire the defensive version in Schiano! You as an NFL expert should be well aware of this. (Ask anyone in Tampa about him.) Yes, SOME of the Vol Nation (the ones who got all the press) were upset over unproven allegations going back to his days at Penn State, and for that they should be sorry. But the main thrust of this is a fan base saying we will not settle for mediocrity again. I challenge you to respond.
—Gordon B., Roswell, Ga.
My response is pretty simple: If you didn’t want him as coach, your athletic director should not have signed him to a memorandum of understanding to be the coach. Gordon, I just ask you to do this if you think Schiano would have been an abject failure at Tennessee—and it’s entirely possible he would have been. Take a trip back to New Jersey with me at the turn of the century. I lived in Jersey from 1985 to 2009. I saw the worst Division I football team in America, year after year. Rutgers was 0-11 in 1997, 1-10 in 1999. Schiano got there in 2001. Rutgers stunk for four years. I remember going to a game in 2006 in Piscataway, though. I saw Erin Andrews there, doing the sidelines for ESPN. Rutgers-Louisville. Rutgers was ranked high; I forget exactly how high, maybe 14th or 15th in the country. Louisville was fourth-ranked. Electric atmosphere. Amazing atmosphere. About 20 of the best high school players in Jersey watched from the sidelines as Rutgers won. The team was ranked in the top 10 the next week. That’s what I thought of when I saw the Tennessee-Schiano rumors Sunday, before it blew up. “The AD must have researched Schiano and saw what he did with the worst Division I program in the country,” I thought. Anyway, I guess I don’t think the hire was as bad as everyone else did.
First off, for the most part, I love your column. However, I feel like this week you missed a huge connection! You talk about the collusion case against Colin Kaepernick resulting from his taking a knee and no teams wanting to touch him. You then go on to talk about the huge ratings drop. Do you not think that there is a connection between the ratings drop and the kneeling during the anthem? People are pissed about these acts of protest and have stopped watching. So why would a team pick up Kaepernick if they are afraid its going to hurt their ratings even more? And to tie another point in, Schiano lost the UT job because of public outcry! Seems like we need to realize that all of these things go hand in hand!
—Steven H., Pensacola, Fla.
You’re right. The anthem protests certainly are a part of the ratings decline. We’re going to be writing about the ratings in the coming couple of weeks, and we’ll explore all the reasons.
TALIB AND CRABTREE, TWO MORE GOATS
You missed two obvious Goats of the Week: Aqib Talib and Michael Crabtree. Their bush-league selfish misbehavior cost each team one of its best players. Talib has a history of hurting his team with stupidity like that, not to mention his off-field gun issues. Since the Broncos’ season is lost anyway, why don't they just cut him to send a message to the rest of the team that this sort of behavior isn't acceptable?
—Ben, Boulder, Colo.
Talib is too good. He’s a top-six or top-eight NFL corner, his teammates love him, and he just lost his mind. No defense of it. But also—at least in my opinion—not the reason why you’d cut a star player either.
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