EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning will start at quarterback for the New York Giants when they host the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Geno Smith will be his backup and Davis Webb will most likely be inactive.
It’s back to the same pecking order that existed for the first 11 games, before the Giants made the bold move to start evaluating the other quarterbacks on the roster while phasing out Manning. Smith started Week 13 against the Oakland Raiders -- and flashed enough to warrant another start -- while the plan was for Webb to have his role increase in the coming weeks.
Now things have changed, for each of the quarterbacks.
He’s the starter, once again. When Steve Spagnuolo was named interim head coach it was all but a foregone conclusion the Giants would go back to Manning.
“All I can tell you is this, when [owner] John Mara and I talked, one of the first things he asked was about the quarterback situation, and I said, ‘John, my gut right now is that Eli should be the starter,’” Spagnuolo said. “What you have to understand is when I was coaching just the defense, I had the blinders on and all I’m worried about is the defense. I stay in my lane. So, I didn’t have my eyes around what was going on on offense -- who was playing what. None of that. So, I took my gut and visited with the offensive coaches and together with that and my gut, Eli Manning is going to be our quarterback.”
It doesn’t appear this is going to be a one-game send-off for Manning, either. The Giants play the Philadelphia Eagles next week, and with Webb still not taking any real snaps at practice, it’s hard to see the Giants going to him just yet.
In the end, Manning had his streak of 210 consecutive starts end for a one-week look at Smith. What a mess.
He was the starter at this time last week. He also had coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese in his corner, intrigued by what he could do on the field.
Mara was on board with the plan, seemingly until he saw the public reaction. Now Smith is the backup and he has been benched for reasons that have little to do with his performance on Sunday. It’s hard to figure out why.
“That’s something maybe I’ll figure out along the road. But as of now, no,” Smith said.
Spagnuolo didn’t tell Smith of any plans for the QB to return to the starting lineup in the coming weeks. He only talked about Sunday against the Cowboys. But it appears Smith’s opportunity has come and gone in the span of a week, even if Spagnuolo said they had a “tremendous conversation,” and that despite Smith not being happy with the decision, he handled it all well.
Smith seemed grateful that McAdoo at least gave him the one start.
“I think I had an opportunity to play and I respect the heck out of Coach McAdoo,” Smith said. “He did something not a lot of people would’ve. I respect it. I appreciate it. Any sympathy or something like that? I’m not looking for it. I don’t need any sympathy. I’m built for all this.”
Unfortunately for Smith, his next opportunity to start might not come this season, or with the Giants. He got squeezed in this situation.
He has been the third-string quarterback from the start of the season until now. Not much has changed. It’s likely he will be inactive Sunday for the 13th time in 13 games as a rookie.
McAdoo seemed to have a plan that would get Webb into games (likely as the starter) in the coming weeks. Now that could be in jeopardy with Spagnuolo in charge.
“Well, [offensive coordinator] Mike [Sullivan] and I and the offensive coaches will talk about that as we go,” Spagnuolo said. "The No. 1 focus right now is to figure out a way to beat the Dallas Cowboys. I can tell you that. And, each week we’ll talk about those other things, but right now, in the midst of everything that’s going on with the changes and whatnot, little tweaks here and there, the focus is still going to be to beat the Dallas Cowboys.”
It should be interesting, considering Mara has said on numerous occasions the team would like to see Webb before the end of the season. But Webb is not going to take real reps at practice this week. The current plan is for him to run the scout team as usual.
Spagnuolo still insists there is a progression underway, even if it's hard to notice.
“It has been increased. There has been an ongoing plan,” he said. “You don’t see it behind the works, but there have been efforts there. I’ll call it drills where Davis has done things where he would do as he prepared to be a 1 or a 2. So, that’s ongoing. Where we go with whoever the 2 is, we’ll just take it week-to-week.”
So maybe being a backup is in Webb’s future? He’s not even thinking that way.
“I am very persistent that I stay in the moment and commit to what I can commit to and can control,” Webb said. “And that is working hard and learning as much as I can from Eli, Geno, [quarterbacks] Coach [Frank] Cignetti and Coach Sullivan. Just really be a sponge around those guys and continue to develop into the quarterback I know I can be.”
It just doesn’t seem certain at this point that anybody will be able to see where Webb is in his progression this season. The changes at the top of the organization haven’t appeared to help his cause.