East Rutherford: Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning is back as the New York Giants’ starting quarterback.
A week after being benched by former coach Ben McAdoo, Manning was put back into the starting line-up for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys by interim coach Steve Spagnuolo.
“My gut right now says Eli should be the starter,” Spagnuolo said in explaining the move after practice Wednesday.
The 36-year-old Manning was told of the decision on Tuesday. He had walked into Spagnuolo’s office on Monday after McAdoo was fired and told the former defensive coordinator that he wanted to start again.
“It’s important to play, that’s what I love to do,” Manning said after practice. “I love to play quarterback and I love to play quarterback for the New York Giants. So that’s what I will work on.”
Manning had started 210 consecutive games over the past 13-plus seasons until being replaced by Geno Smith against Oakland last week. The streak was the second-longest in NFL history, only surpassed by Brett Favre (297).
The first hint of the change back to Manning came early in practice when he took the first snap with the offence.
Of course, some of the offensive linemen appeared to tease him as he entered the huddle.
“We reintroduced ourselves to him, especially me,” said tackle Justin Pugh. “I have been out for a little while (three weeks) and I wanted to let him know who I was, even though we shared the scout team huddle last week. It was good to see 10 in there. He has been my quarterback ever since I have been in the league.”
The benching of Manning last week upset the quarterback and angered Giants fans. Combined with the team’s 2-10 record and other problems, it led co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch to fire McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese on Monday.
“I think you all know how I feel about Eli,” Spagnuolo said. “What happened, happened. In the long run, hopefully it’s a really good thing. He walked in my office, and as a coach you want every player to walk into your office with the intent and determination he had.”
When McAdoo benched Manning, he said the team needed to evaluate Smith and rookie Davis Webb in the final month of the season so it could head into the off-season with a clearer plan about the quarterbacks.
Spagnuolo was not sure whether the evaluation would be done, adding his goal is to win games. He said that Manning gives the Giants the best chance to do that.
Smith will be the backup quarterback, Spagnuolo said, adding that Webb’s workload in practice has increased in recent weeks.
Spagnuolo had a long meeting with Smith and understood his disappointment at losing the starting job through no fault of his own. Spagnuolo added he was impressed with Smith’s professionalism in handling the situation.
“I am just going to continue to be the same guy, continue to support my guys, my teammates,” said Smith, a former Jet who was signed as a free agent in the off-season. “I am going to continue to be prepared. You never know what will happen.”
Smith completed 21 of 34 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown. He also lost two fumbles after being sacked in the 24-17 loss to the Raiders.
“I feel bad for Geno, too,” Pugh said. “He didn’t ask to be put in this situation. A lot of disrespect and hate were thrown his way. It’s just uncalled for. I get that everyone wants to support Eli, but by supporting one man and putting another down is not the way to do it.”