Curtain Call in New York?

By Marcus Lamar

All good things must come to an end.

Geno Smith will start at quarterback for the New York Giants this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, effectively ending Eli Manning’s consecutive regular season start streak at 210 games.

Manning’s consecutive regular season start streak is one of the more impressive feats of his career and in the NFL. He ranks behind only Brett Favre who has the most consecutive regular season games started at 297. The streak itself is a testament to his longevity and the stability he’s provided for the New York Giants.

One of my knocks on Manning over the years is that he’s consistently inconsistent. You never know which Eli will show up on game day, but you could always count on him to be there.

There’s something to be said for that.

Coming from the NFL’s first family, Manning came from football pedigree. His father Archie Manning played in the NFL for 13 seasons and his older brother Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play.

When the news first broke that Manning would be benched I immediately thought second year head coach Ben McAdoo was behind this. With a 2-9 record the Giants have nothing to play for and it would be in the franchise’s best interest to see if rookie quarterback Davis Webb, who has been patiently waiting in the wings, can actually play or not.

However, I couldn’t help but initially think “Eli what about your streak?” I know it seems hypocritical of me to ask a player, a quarterback at that, to prioritize a personal accomplishment over what’s best for the team, but Manning has earned the right to be selfish in this instance considering all that he’s done for the franchise.

Playing in New York isn’t easy given the heightened level of expectations from the fans coupled with the brutally honest media scrutinizing everything you say or do. The New York media has been using Manning as a perennial punching bag during his entire tenure as quarterback of the Giants, yet he’s remained a consummate professional throughout the good, bad and ugly times.

So much has gone wrong for the Giants this season. From losing stud receivers to injury, to the lack of a running game and protection upfront, to the defense taking a significant step backwards, all culminating with questions surrounding the future of the general manager, head coach and quarterback, Manning has multiple things he could point to deflect blame. But, as always, Manning shoulders up and accepts the brunt of the blame, even if he doesn’t necessarily deserve all of it.

Many in NFL circles believe McAdoo’s coaching performance, or lack thereof, has landed him in the hot seat. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for this Giants team, and McAdoo’s aloof demeanor during press conferences after games certainly hasn’t endeared him to the New York faithful. With five games left in the season the Giants organization is stuck in between a rock and hard a place. They have to decide whether they are going to commit to McAdoo moving forward or whether they are going to move in a new direction sans Manning & McAdoo.

Internally the Giants should have their eyes set on obtaining a high draft pick, with the hopes that one of the quarterbacks set to come out is as transformative as advertised.

At 36, Manning is more than a serviceable quarterback in the NFL. And he’s proven that with the right complimentary parts around him he can elevate his play to a level where he can win you a Super Bowl. Or even two.

Potential suitors for Manning’s services after the season ends include, but are not limited to, the Denver Broncos, the Buffalo Bills, the Arizona Cardinals and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jaguars are, perhaps, the most intriguing destination of them all. Manning’s former coach, Tom Coughlin, is a part of Jacksonville’s front office and has a good relationship with him. With stud running back Leonard Fournette already in place and that defense playing the way they have this season, Manning would certainly provide a much needed upgrade from the erratic Blake Bortles.

If this is the end of Manning in New York, those two throws he made in both Super Bowls to David Tyree and Mario Mannigham will be what he is remembered for as quarterback of the Giants.

Whether you like, love or hate the guy Manning can boast that he’s done something no other person or team could accomplish. He’s gone toe-to-toe with the best quarterback and coach ever, twice, and came out victorious both times.

It’s time to move on for both Manning and the Giants. But both may soon discover you never realize what you had until it’s gone.


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