Giants quarterback Eli Manning

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Keidel: Benching Manning Would Solve Absolutely Nothing

With No QB Of Future On Roster, Giants Should Stick With Eli

Jason Keidel
November 08, 2018 - 11:23 am
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Over the last two years, Eli Manning has devolved from superhero to talk radio punching bag. Forget the two Super Bowl rings on his hand or the MVP awards he won in each game. Manning has become the crumbling emblem of a lost franchise.

No doubt the Giants' quarterback for the last 15 years has lost a few yards off his robust right arm. No doubt he's increasingly shellshocked by an atrocious offensive line, bracing for a sack two steps before the pass rusher pounds him. No doubt Manning is part of an overall gridiron failure from the New York Football Giants. 

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But it's too facile, if not fatuous, to assume that sitting Manning is the solution for a roster with more potholes than Eighth Avenue. 

The problem with benching Eli is there's no Jimmy Garoppolo on the sideline pining for a chance to start. Instead, Big Blue has Kyle Lauletta, who was arrested for a bizarre traffic incident in which he allegedly ignored the traffic directions of a police officer then came close to hitting said officer with his car. He's hardly Al Capone, but the troubling optics matter. 

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There's an old NFL saying that the farther the player is from the snap, the more eccentric the personality. Wide receivers, farthest from the center, tend to be the most detached from the rules, if not reality. But no matter the mayhem of the huddle or the locker room, the QB has to be the adult in the group. And if coach Pat Shurmur or his bosses thought Lauletta was the face of the future, he would have started a game by now. 

The Giants also have Alex Tanney, but if he had anything to offer, eight teams wouldn't have let him walk before he arrived in the Meadowlands this year.

So Shurmur, who has been criticized, questioned and parodied throughout his maiden season as head coach in New York, made the right call by making Manning the starter against the San Francisco 49ers this coming Monday night. Benching Manning now would be cosmetic, a myopic move for the sake of making one. It would be another act of desperation in a season defined by it. 

Blowhards like yours truly had already handed the key to the city to Sam Darnold after his Week 1 performance, a 48-17 drubbing of the Detroit Lions. Darnold will improve and likely mature into the Jets' QB for the next 15 years. But when asked why he couldn't get franchise quarterbacks with greater frequency, Bill Parcells said he can only take what big-time colleges offer and that there's no number he can dial up for the next great one. 

There's such a dearth of dominant quarterbacks that the league can't even find 32 of them, or one for each team. The reason you see the same teams jousting for the Super Bowl is they have the QB spot solved, while the others don't. The Saints, Rams, Chiefs, Chargers, Patriots and Steelers have the best chance to win this year's Super Bowl because they have solved the quarterback puzzle. 

The Texans have suddenly surged to the top of the AFC South because QB DeShaun Watson has finally recovered from his knee injury. The Bears are atop the NFC Central because Matt Nagy has scratched out the right plays for Mitchell Trubisky. It's incredibly rare for a team like the Eagles to win a Super Bowl with their backup QB. But they did get to the playoffs largely on the arm and legs of stalwart signal-caller Carson Wentz. 

It's not Manning's fault the Giants average a paltry 77.9 rushing yards per game, 31st out of 32 clubs. Despite the alleged upgrades on the offensive line, Eli has been sacked 31 times, the third most in the league. The G-Men have a minus-4 turnover ratio, another sign of a faltering franchise. Manning has half as many interceptions (seven) as Darnold (14), and ranks a surprising ninth in the NFL in passing yards per game (275). 

This is not to pardon Manning for his part in this woeful season. We all know Manning won't be the quarterback of the Giants in 2019. But benching him in 2018 won't be much better than it was in 2017, when they inexplicably started Geno Smith for one game. The Giants have made enough scalp-scratching moves over the last three years. Embarrassing Eli Manning for the sake of it, and staining his exit from the franchise he made so essential this century, won't make the Giants anything but a greater embarrassment. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.