The benching of Eli Manning for Kyle Lauletta has to be coming

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It seems more a matter of when, not if. The New York Giants almost have no choice but to bench quarterback Eli Manning in favor of rookie Kyle Lauletta.

"We'll see," coach Pat Shurmur said Monday about starting Manning against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 12.

The Giants (1-7) are tied with the 49ers for the worst record in the NFL at the midway point of their season. They’re struggling badly on offense, as they have been for the better part of three seasons, and need an injection of life.

What do they have to lose with Lauletta over Manning?

Manning is going to be 38 years old before this season’s Super Bowl. He has eight touchdown passes and has endured 31 sacks in eight games. He’s had a legendary career with the Giants, but it’s sputtering to an inglorious conclusion. The Giants have lost 21 of 25 games dating back to their playoff loss from the 2016 season.

General manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur whiffed on their appraisal of Manning this offseason, declaring he had “years” left in his career. It hasn’t been the case, and now this new Giants brain trust has little choice but to try Lauletta, if only to avoid losing the respect of a locker room that is currently devoid of hope. It was a demoralized group after Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Washington Redskins.

The Giants enter their bye when players take off on Wednesday. With 14 days to scheme and plan before that Monday Night Football game in San Francisco, it might be a good spot to get Lauletta ready to play.

I asked a handful of players after Sunday’s loss if they would be OK with the Giants benching Manning and starting Lauletta in his place against the 49ers. None openly advocated the move, but none objected either. Two players said they wouldn’t be surprised, one said it wasn’t his decision and another declined to answer.

The fifth player surveyed said, “If [coaches] think it’s going to help us win.”

That’s where these Giants seem to stand. They’re willing to try anything rather than throwing the immobile Manning behind a bad offensive line and hoping for a different result that produces more points.

Lauletta is a fourth-round pick out of Richmond who has yet to be active for an NFL game. He’s not blessed with the biggest arm, ideal size or even blazing speed. He may not even be ready for regular-season game action after weeks of spending practice running the scout team.

But with the way Manning and the Giants are playing, he’s a unique alternative for a team that has been banging its head against the proverbial wall in its struggle to score points. The Giants have failed to top 20 points in five of eight games this season. They have flopped against good, mediocre and bad defenses. Equal opportunity incompetence.

Lauletta is sneaky mobile and internally the team raves about his instincts. He plays in a way similar to Case Keenum, who had a magical season working with Shurmur last year in Minnesota. Some players think Lauletta has “it.” There is no way to really tell until he plays in games.

At the very least, the Giants can get a taste of what they have in the young quarterback before they head into this offseason, when the hunt for a quarterback undoubtedly will kick into high gear. They can avoid repeating what happened at the end of last season, when Davis Webb never got onto the field and the season wilted away while Manning was benched (temporarily) and then reinstated.

This isn’t the same regime, and it’s The new administration has made its share of misjudgments so far but has at least shown a willingness to cut its losses and make tough calls (cutting Webb, Ereck Flowers and more).

Shurmur said last week he thought Manning would be the Giants’ quarterback after the bye, but he left the door cracked open. There is no need for a rash decision.

“I’m going to look at everything,” he said Sunday when asked about making drastic changes to the offense. “Look at everything as we move forward.”

Shurmur was then much more vague when asked specifically about the quarterback position.

“I don’t want to go there and I’m not going to tease that,” he said. “I just want to look at everything and see what we have to do moving forward.”

If the end of last season proved anything, it was that the Giants have a soft spot for Manning. They’re going to handle him with extreme care.

Putting him on the bench at this point might be doing him a favor. This is quickly turning into Willie Mays at the end of his career with the Mets. They can always make Week 17 at MetLife Stadium against the Cowboys a goodbye game.

In the seven games until then, Lauletta could provide some spark. His ability to move around the pocket may give hope to star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. & Co. that all is not lost now and heading into the future. It’s something, anything, to keep this offense from continuing to spiral out of control.