I woke up this morning planning to write about how head coach Ben McAdoo mishandled Eli Apple’s “suspension”. His vague quotes to the media just forced the press to speculate even more on why Apple was a healthy scratch for two straight weeks. How about for once just be transparent on why a player was disciplined? However, after this bomb was dropped at around 3:25 EST this afternoon, McAdoo’s handling of Eli Apple was no longer the most egregious decision he had made this week.
— New York Giants (@Giants) November 28, 2017
At first I thought this was a fake account. Eli Manning benched for Geno Smith? The quarterback who has completed 57.7% of his passes, carried a 28 to 36 touchdown to interception ratio with a 72.3 quarterback rating? I hoped this was a sick joke from someone with too much time on their hands on a Tuesday afternoon. I had come to terms with the fact that 2018 would likely be Eli’s last year in a Giants uniform. I was ready for the fans to shower him each home game with the love and respect he deserves as being one of the toughest athletes New York has ever seen. No one wanted to see Eli go out like this, dragging a beaten up offense up and down the field all season. 2018 was supposed to be Eli’s last stand, but now we’ll likely never get to officially say good-bye.
If you had polled Giants fans before today and asked them what rock bottom felt like, Giants nation likely would have referenced the worst loss they have ever experienced. From the Wild Card game against Minnesota in 1997, the Super Bowl loss to the Ravens in 2001, blowing their Wild Card game in San Francisco in 2003 or the DeSean Jackson punt return game in 2010 all come to mind. Now, those pale in comparison to what most fans experienced today. Giants fans pride themselves on rooting for one of the most well run organizations in all of professional sports. While other organizations (looking at you Cleveland) are constantly turning their staff over trying to be relevant, the Giants have been a model of consistency. Since 1999 they have had only three head coaches and three starting quarterbacks. Giants fans look at how other organizations are run and think “that will never be us”. But that now that is us and this is why today feels like rock bottom. The fact that ownership allowed their head coach to make this decision makes me feel like this organization is no longer special. The Giants are now no different than the 98% of other NFL teams.
What hurts the most is the feeling that the Giants won’t ever have it as good as they did with Eli. The impact Eli had on the players around him can’t be captured in his career statistics. Eli elevated everyone around him, from Steve Smith to Hakeem Nicks to Victor Cruz, he had a special ability to bring out the best in every player by making sure they were in the best position to succeed. No one was more prepared than Eli. The moment may still feel raw, but right now it feels like it can only go downhill from the Eli Manning era of the Giants.
On the bright side, because I had the good fortune of watching Eli, I now understand the type of quarterback I want leading my team. Presence in the pocket, toughness and the ability to rise to the occasion when everything is on the line. When the Giants inevitably draft a quarterback in May, before handing in their card they should ask themselves “does he carry himself like Eli?” No moment or deficit ever felt like it was too much to overcome with Eli at quarterback. He’s the most confident gunslinger I have ever watched and I wouldn’t want my quarterback any other way. We’ll miss you Eli.