At the end of the day, the above fact is undeniable. Very few “capital-G” Great quarterbacks have been benched mid-week, mid-season, when otherwise perfectly healthy. Oh sure, there are a few current Hall of Famers who had it happen to them.
Kurt Warner, ironically enough the guy whom Manning replaced 210 games ago, DID just get into the Hall of Fame despite losing his job while healthy. Of course, without Warner’s incredible “second coming” with the Cardinals and “should-have-been” 2nd ring vs. Pittsburgh, I don’t think there would be any case for Warner in the Hall.
Sonny Jurgensen was benched and/or swapped out with Billy Kilmer late in his career by the neurotic George Allen. And Joe Namath (who was arguably a Hall of Fame mistake based on nostalgia trumping horrible numbers) was also benched at one point.
But the list is short. And now Eli’s on it. Manning 2.0’s case for the Hall of Fame will be interesting. If I had to bet, I’d say he squeaks in. Although I disagree with it.
Compare Eli to his contemporaries at this age. Would you put him in someday alongside Brady, Brees, and Rodgers? Hell no. Brady has kept producing at insane levels, despite all kinds of guys getting injured (Gronk, Edelman, etc.). His INT totals are absurdly low, while Eli’s thrown 20 picks (twenty!) three different times in a season!
Drew Brees still put up scortched earth numbers while the Saints were limping home to three straight 7-9 seasons before this year. He averaged 5000 yards, 30 TD’s and completed almost 70% of his passes during that time.
And when Aaron Rodgers went down for Green Bay, the entire team collapsed.
More importantly, all three of those guys display an outward maniacal drive, that keeps everybody else on the team accountable and committed to winning. Eli, bless his tussled hair and confused face, inspires boat trips.
Sorry, Eli’s not on this level. Never was.
It doesn’t make the decision on a pure football level any less idiotic, however. The dual opinions that “Eli just isn’t that good anymore” and “starting Geno Smith to see what he has is insane” are not contradictory. Both are, in my opinion, quite solidly true.
So what’s going on then? I think this has to be the damn-breaking moment in what has probably been a simmering backroom discussion between the Giants and Eli. I am pretty sure the Giants went to Eli as this season started to unravel, and quietly asked “how firm, exactly is that no-trade clause?” Eli, I am pretty certain, said FIRM. And maybe a “fuck you” along the way.
So as the losses kept piling up for the Giants (not to mention injuries) the urgency of the moment came into focus for the Mara family. The palatability of rolling out Eli at the MetLife Complex next August at age 37 and 8 months, coming off the second worst season of his career, having just spent a top-5 draft pick on somebody OTHER than a new QB from a talent rich class, was becoming more unthinkable with every loss.
It’s a power move, no doubt. Something the Manning family knows well. It’s how Eli landed in NY in the first place.
So yeah, the time had come to signal to Eli: things are changing around here. And no, I don’t think Ben McAdoo thought up this gambit all on his own. The Code Red had to certainly come from the top.
I’ll give Eli the requisite “credit” for being classy about it, and not trying to keep his start streak on life support. The Giants already have one dubious NFL record in their trophy case – cough, cough, Michael Strahan – they don’t need another one. Besides, reaching Brett Favre at 297 was extremely unlikely.
But my god, people need to check themselves on canonizing “St. Eli the Great” right now. These takes won’t make it past a few weeks, much less a few years.
They say the Giants should handled this move in a more classy way. Okay, I suppose. But how should that have gone? Bake him a nice cake with “You’re Benched” on it? Take him out to dinner? Write a personal handwritten note?
There was no “good” way to do this. And it was certainly “time.” Now, everybody buckle up for the Geno Smith Experience. It won’t be boring.