In an “ideal world,” it never would have come to this.
Not after two weeks.
In John Mara’s dream scenario, the veteran quarterback who helped deliver two of the team’s four Super Bowls would prove that he still had far more good days ahead than bad, that Manning was still capable of being the leader his teammates could believe in, could lean on and rally behind.
But this is not a perfect world.
Manning is no longer the face of the franchise.
And now the Giants are on the hook for $17 million for only eight quarters of work.
With one succinct tweet, delivered Tuesday morning, a new day unfolded in East Rutherford, New Jersey — and an era came to a screeching halt.
“Daniel Jones has been named Giants starting QB,” the team formally announced on Twitter.
Two games into a season that initially belonged to Manning, the team felt it had no choice but to move on.
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In 16 seasons, he helped lead the Giants to two Super Bowl wins, threw for 56,537 yards and 362 touchdowns, and, since 2005, has started every game except one. Frustrated fans will point to his lack of mobility, his waning play and his 116-116 career record as proof that he should have been shown the door a long time ago. But when given opportunities to devise a strategy that would allow their longtime quarterback to bow out gracefully in the transition to a new quarterback future, Mara and head coach Pat Shurmur repeatedly insisted Manning had their full support and that he gave them their best chance to win.
“I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field,” Mara told reporters in mid-August. “That would be, in an ideal word, you’d like to see that. At the end of the day, that is going to be a decision by the head coach as to when, or if, Daniel ends up playing this year.”
A month later, the Giants are turning the page on the Manning era altogether.
Truth be told, Mara had to sign off on a move as monumental, as emotional and as franchise-defining as this. Especially after the team decided to keep Manning this offseason instead of cutting bait.
Manning was on borrowed time. That much was clear when former head coach Ben McAdoo botched the benching of the four-time Pro Bowler for Geno Smith in Week 13 of the 2017 season. That fiasco led to McAdoo’s firing and the organization reaffirming its faith in Manning publicly. Even though it waned behind closed doors.
The Giants’ mishandling of their quarterback situation also didn’t end there.
They chose not to draft Sam Darnold or another quarterback in 2018 (in favor of selecting running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall), and then made the curious decision not to cut bait with Manning earlier this year. Instead, a team with enormous roster holes to fill paid its aging quarterback $17 million in March — a $5 million roster bonus and $12 million salary.
Ultimately, the Giants did the expected. Albeit far sooner than anyone anticipated.
“Ultimately, this is a move that I felt was best for this team at this time,” Shurmur said, via the team’s web site. “... This move is more about Daniel moving forward than about Eli.”
Jones’ preseason performance paved the way for this dethroning. But exhibition games against backup defenders and vanilla defensive schemes is no indication of a true franchise guy. The first real test for Jones will be Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Todd Bowles’ blitz-happy defense. And the Giants better hope “Danny Dimes” can adjust quickly to the steep NFL learning curve.
There was no doubt Manning’s time would soon be up. Save for Barkley, the Giants’ offense is nothing short of lifeless. The boos that rained down from the MetLife Stadium crowd during New York’s 28-14 loss to Buffalo this past Sunday was further proof the fan base had simply had enough.
Jones is the hero they’ve been waiting for. But how soon until the kid draws their ire?
Developing NFL quarterbacks requires patience, plays built around his strengths and an unwavering commitment to see the process through.
Hopefully, for Jones’ sake, the Giants do right by him. Because there is no going back to Manning.
Not ever again.
The Book of Eli — at least, in New York — is complete.
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