<
>

For Giants, Eli Manning's benching is all about Davis Webb

play
Has Eli started his last game for the Giants? (0:52)

Will Cain explains why Eli Manning being benched is a big deal and why he's surprised by Geno Smith starting in Manning's place. (0:52)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' season was crushed long before they did the same to quarterback Eli Manning's pride. Their season went completely off the rails about the time they lost their entire receiving corps (and Odell Beckham Jr.’s ankle shattered) in a Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

When you’re 2-9 with a soon-to-be 37-year-old starting quarterback and eyeing an extremely high draft pick, it can understandably force the hand of an organization, even if their fans aren’t pleased with the consequences. The Giants want to see what rookie Davis Webb can do in live action before they get to one of the biggest offseasons in team history.

That is what Tuesday’s moves that landed Manning on the bench were all about, sources told ESPN. The Giants want to figure if Webb has a realistic chance of being their franchise quarterback before they pick at the top of next year’s draft.

It seems like a fair approach, except that it landed Manning on the bench so Geno Smith, the former New York Jets quarterback, can also receive some playing time.

Smith will get a game or two barring any spectacular outburst, including the start this Sunday on the road against the Oakland Raiders. Webb could start as soon as next week against the Dallas Cowboys. That doesn’t appear out of the realm of possibility at this point.

“Well, I have a lot of confidence in Eli as a player, as a quarterback. But at this point, it’s my responsibility for the organization to make sure we take a look at Geno and, at some point, take a look at Davis and give them the opportunity to show what they can do heading into next year,” coach Ben McAdoo said.

He wouldn’t specify exactly when Webb would enter the mix. He wouldn’t even say that Webb would dress for this week’s game. (Hint: He might not.)

The Giants’ original plan this week seemed to be that Manning would play the first half against the Raiders to continue his consecutive games streak, then give way to Smith for the second half. Manning slept on that and realized how ludicrous it would be. He elected to step aside and instead allow Smith and Davis to play. That’s what the Giants wanted, anyway.

It’s inevitable now that Webb, the third-round pick out of California, will see game action sooner rather than later.

“At some point in time, Davis will be thrown in the mix. Yes,” McAdoo said.

This is the result of losing nine of 11 games this season and having an impotent offense. The Giants are 31st in the NFL, averaging 15.6 points per game. They’ve been eliminated from the playoffs before the start of December.

The starting quarterback, the two-time Super Bowl winner on the back nine of his career, gets the shaft. He gets pushed aside so the team can look at younger models who could potentially be a part of the franchise several years down the road.

McAdoo’s ace in the hole with his job seemingly on the line is Webb. That’s his guy. McAdoo pushed hard for him in just about every round of the draft before finally getting his way back in April.

So far, Webb has done nothing to disappoint. He’s known as a hard worker, a future coach and a coach’s son who has worked diligently at his craft ever since he arrived in East Rutherford. The coaching staff raves about his potential.

But right now that is all it is -- potential. Webb received limited snaps in training camp, played in the fourth quarter of some preseason games and wasn’t even taking all the scout team reps during normal work weeks throughout the season. He split those with Smith.

Webb also hasn’t even dressed for an NFL game. That will change soon, even if he insists he will not change.

“It doesn’t affect my preparation. I’ve said this before, I get up here pretty early and I stay here pretty dang late, and I always prepare like if my opportunity came tomorrow, I’d be ready, and I approached it that way since the day I got here,” Webb said. “It doesn’t really affect much, but right now, I’m going to be the best teammate I can be for [Eli] and Geno, and we’re going to try to help us win our game on Sunday. But, it doesn’t affect anything.”

This all sounds like the Giants wanting to get Webb on the field so they can get a more accurate evaluation of what he will be at the NFL level. Pushing Manning aside now provides them the opportunity.

It may not have been perfect -- or gone well at all from a public relations standpoint -- but when Webb is on the field in the next few weeks, it will have achieved its intended consequences. The Giants will receive an extended look at their 22-year-old quarterback while their aging quarterback looks on.