By DERON SNYDER
In Kansas City, some folks are suggesting it’s time to replace quarterback Alex Smith with rookie Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs are in the playoff hunt but have lost four of their last five games.
In Buffalo, questions linger about the decision to bench quarterback Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman. The Bills remain in postseason contention but gave away a game with Peterman’s five-pick start.
In New York, blistering criticism flooded the airwaves and cyberspace Tuesday after a quarterback change was announced. The Giants, going nowhere at 2-9, decided to proceed without Eli Manning under center.
What’s the controversy there?
I understand that no position receives as much scrutiny, acclaim and blame as quarterback. I realize that Manning has won two Super Bowls and his family is NFL royalty. I know he’s a fixture in the Big Apple with 210 consecutive starts since November 2004.
But I’m confused by claims that the Giants are mistreating Manning by making a move now. Is it because Geno Smith and rookie Davis Webb will play instead? Is it that Manning represents the best chance to win? Was the team simply supposed to let the veteran ride out the string?
The only argument that halfway makes sense is this: New York stinks with him and will stink without him, and if that’s the case, he might as well finish the season.
No one believes that Smith is the answer. He has thrown 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions in his career. Webb is a third-round pick who hasn’t thrown his first NFL yet. The Giants’ quarterback-of-the-future likely isn’t on the roster.
However, there’s no denying that Manning has been awful. Yes, his completion percentage (62.5) is slightly above his career mark (59.8). But he’s also posting some of his worst-ever numbers in yards per attempt (6.1), yards per catch (9.8) and total quarterback rating (42.7).
Part of the decline can be attributed to a lack of talent around him. But at 36 years old, Manning has contributed, too. He never was Tom Brady and he’s not aging as well, either.
Maybe Manning has another couple of good years left, maybe not. Regardless, he can’t help beleaguered coach Ben McAdoo or embattled general manager Jerry Reese this season, probably their last with the organization.
“This is not the way it should be, but unfortunately, it’s where we are,” McAdoo told reporters. “Our number one priority every week is to go win a game, but we owe it to the organization to get an evaluation of everybody on the roster, and that includes at the quarterback position.”
Suggesting that quarterbacks are viewed like any other position would be disingenuous. That’s why Manning’s handling has caused such an uproar. He’s been the face of the franchise for 13 seasons, representing the team with class and grace. His closest brush with scandal is a pending lawsuit that accuses him of scheming to sell fake “game-worn” memorabilia, which ranks kind of low on the outrage meter.
And, of course, he led the Giants to a pair of Super Bowl wins, twice beating golden-boy Brady and the loathsome New England Patriots. Just a fair to middling QB otherwise, those victories cemented Manning’s place as a legendary New York sports figure.
Naturally, the move hurt Manning’s fans and supporters. It hurt him, too.
“You don’t have to make sense of it,” he told reporters as he fought back tears at his locker. “This is what it is, and you have to deal with it.”
Here’s where I agree with the critics: Offering Manning a chance to continue his streak of consecutive starts was weak. Thankfully, he had too much honor and dignity to partake in that charade. Better to rip off the bandage in one swift move.
I’ll also concede that adding Smith to the mix was an unnecessary irritant. The Giants should’ve played it strictly as kicking the tires on their rookie QB. Webb can’t prove much in five games, but there’s certainly no need to – as McAdoo said – “make sure we look at Geno.”
McAdoo confused matters further by insisting the Giants are still trying to win. That doesn’t make sense once you’ve entered evaluation mode. As poorly as Manning has played, it’s hard to argue that Smith or Davis increase the team’s chances of victory.
Besides, losses are more valuable at this point.
Nothing is gained by dropping in the draft order.
The Giants could’ve stuck with Manning for that reason or for old times’ sake. It’s a cold, hard business, but he probably deserved better.
I agree that the move was ham-handed. Just not the big deal folks made it.
We have to look elsewhere for real quarterback controversies.