Big Blue United

The Day The Lights Went Out On Broadway; What The Way The Giants’ Handled Eli’s Benching Says About the State of the Franchise

Eli Manning

What does the future hold for the two-time Super Bowl Champion and Walter Payton Man of the Year?

By Rich Nardo – Big Blue United 11.30.17


Instagram, Thursday Night Football, The Oklahoma City Thunder and the country of Serbia have all been established since a quarterback other than Eli Manning last started for the Giants. In that time, Manning has thrown for over 50,000 yards. He has twice been named Super Bowl MVP, one of only five players to win the award multiple times, and he has led over thirty 4th quarter comebacks and forty game-winning drives. As evidence by the outpour we saw on Twitter, he has earned a position as one of the most respected players, by teammates and opponents alike, in the NFL. He is an iron-man that undoubtedly deserves to go ahead and eventually overtake Brett Favre for the all time record. Still, what’s so infuriating about Eli’s benching isn’t so much the fact his consecutive game streak is coming to a premature end. It’s the manner in which it was carried out and the implications in terms of who we are as a franchise, not just in 2017 but moving forward, that it represents.

 

For over eighty years, The New York Giants have been a beacon of class and loyalty. The Maras have been revered around the league for what they represented; a family-oriented organization that cared about their players and fans more than selling jerseys and luxury boxes. Sure, they are among the league’s most profitable organizations, but that is due to the community they have developed around the team not any flash-in-the-pan signings or publicity stunts. As a result, being a Giants fan is a trait passed down from parent to child. If you’re the offspring of a Giants’ family, you inherit that legacy, along with the tales of great games and heroic moments, as soon as you’re old enough to watch your first game. That love of Big Blue never leaves you, and there’s very little doubt that you’ll someday pass that love onto your own children. In other words, the Mara’s have always developed the Giants fanbase the right way.

 

We’ve all witnessed the cracks in the Big Blue armor over the past few years. Still, Giants fans learned to look the other way, discussing how we could get better rather than trashing the team. As long as we had Eli to lead our 53 onto the field every Sunday, we knew our values and commitment to excellence and class were in tact. Even this year, in the midst of a season when the sports pages seem to be littered with headlines litigations and suspensions and players, coaches and managers across the league seem to be bickering constantly, Eli stood stoically in front of his locker each week pointing his finger back at his number 10 jersey, taking the blame for his team’s abysmal performance. Well despite what Eli would have you believe, this season isn’t his fault. The blame lies with his head coach. The guy standing at the podiumeach week throwing every player he can under the bus. It also falls largely on the shoulders of the General Manager who has been completely underwhelming in his decade-long tenure. Most of all, the blame lies with John Mara, who is sadly overseeing the downfall of the franchise his family dedicated their lives to build. Leadership need to change in East Rutherford and quickly.

 

Let’s look at this triumvirate of ineptitude a little closer, starting with McAdoo. The Giants offense hasn’t scored 30 points in a game since he took the reigns as head coach. He’s repeatedly made questionable moves both on-and-off the field as a head coach and his players have been in open revolt for most of the season. When Tom Coughlin gave his final press conference as head coach he looked directly at Eli Manning in the front row and said “When we lose. I lose. When we win. You guys win”. Tom Coughlin is one of the greatest coaches of all time and no one understood the importance of the player/coach relationship better. Unfortunately, McAdoo apparently learned nothing from his predecessor as he has repeatedly passed the blame to his players this year. As far as I’m concerned, that is a huge indication that he will never be a good fit for a head coaching position in New York or anywhere else.

 

Now onto the GM. A lot of people say Jerry Reese owes his whole career to Eli Manning; I disagree. Jerry Reese owes his whole career to Ernie Accorsi, the man who pulled off the legendary draft-day swap that brought Eli to New York in the first place. Accorsi was also responsible for hiring Tom Coughlin. He assembled the majority of the core for both Super Bowl victories; including drafting Osi Umenyiora, Chris Snee, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Brandon Jacobs and signing Antonio Pierce, Kareem McKenzie and Plaxico Burress. Jerry Reese hasn’t had one of his draft picks selected after the first round sign a second contract with the team yet; a far cry from the sort of career Giants players that Accorsi assembled. Reese also spent over $200 million dollars on free agents this past summer and yet we still sit at 2-9 with no run game to speak of, a suspect linebacking unit and one of the worst offensive lines in the league.

 

The fact that John Mara couldn’t even be bothered to be at the facility yesterday or demand that they hold off on the decision to bench Eli until after the two had spoken in person shows you all you need to know about how far the apple fell from the tree in the Mara family. Wellington Mara was a legend; beloved by his players, coaches and everyone else that worked or supported the New York Giants. John Mara is battling James Dolan for the title of Anti-Nepotism posterboy. For Christ’s sake, his niece showed more remorse over Eli’s benching. The fact that Mara not only allowed this to happen but signed off on it is sadly just the latest example in a long line of incompetent decisions since he took over football operations for the Giants.

 

Through all of this, Eli has kept his chin up; taking the hits and the blame like only a real leader would. That fact isn’t surprising considering we’re talking about one of the toughest players of the modern era. You don’t start 210 consecutive games at quarterback in the NFL without getting hurt; it’s physically impossible. Still, no matter what injury, insult, fatigue or crisis of confidence he faced, Eli held himself to the highest standard; marching out onto the field each week and expecting to lead his team to victory. He’s been a model citizen and teammate, the hardest working man in a blue jersey, and the very embodiment of what the Giants franchise has stood for since 1925. He is the sort of role model that I can point to and tell my nephews that “no matter how talented you are, the way you behave is more important. You have to work harder than the next man. You always shoulder the responsibility and you always conduct yourself the way you would want your parents to view you. Just like Eli does”.

 

That is the legacy that Eli has built over the past 13 years. Still, yesterday he was unceremoniously benched in favor of a journeyman quarterback with a 12-18 career record. An average-at-best QB who has thrown 36 interceptions to his just 28 touchdowns and missed almost an entire season after having his jaw broken by a teammate in a locker room fistfight. My how far we have fallen as an organization.

 

2017 isn’t the first rough year Giants fans have endured and it won’t be our last. But still, we watched. Up until now, every minute of every game, we tuned in. We celebrated when Orleans Darkwa had a career day or when Erick Flowers actually showed a glimmer of hope he might live up to his draft position. We complained about the suspensions and the major personnel holes and a lot of other things, but we never wavered in our support of the team. As of today, at least for me, that has changed. This isn’t the franchise I hold in such high regard anymore. MY Giants wouldn’t treat one of their most decorated players, a man who gave so much blood, sweat and tears to the team for over 13 seasons, this way. MY Giants wouldn’t use him as a scapegoat. This isn’t how MY Giants would send off Eli Manning. So for now, I feel no need to tune in.

 

This is what my Giants are all about:

 

 

In closing, Eli Manning was one of the first two people at the Giants facility today. He was working with Davis Webb to make sure Webb is ready when his number is called. It is the day after being unceremoniously benched and blatantly disrespected and he is still doing everything he can to help the Giants. For the sake of the Giants’ future, let’s hope Webb learned more about what it is to be a professional this morning from #10 than he’ll soak in from his head coach over the remaining six weeks of the season.