KRYK: Giants demote Eli Manning, anoint Daniel Jones starting QB

Eli Manning of the New York Giants makes a pass during their game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on September 15, 2019 in East Rutherford, N.J. (Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

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Eli Manning’s nearly uninterrupted 16-season run as the New York Giants’ starting quarterback is over.

And the Daniel Jones era has begun in the Big Apple.

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur announced Tuesday morning that Manning has been demoted to second string, and Jones — a rookie drafted sixth overall in April — is the team’s new starting passer.

The Giants have begun the season 0-2 and visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon.

The move had been expected sooner than later this season, ever since the Giants drafted Jones.

“Eli and I spoke this morning,” Shurmur said in a statement. “I told him that we are making a change and going with Daniel as the starter. I also talked to Daniel.

“Eli was obviously disappointed, as you would expect, but he said he would be what he has always been, a good teammate, and continue to prepare to help this team win games. Daniel understands the challenge at hand, and he will be ready to play on Sunday.”

Shurmur telegraphed the move at his Monday news conference, when he quite purposefully leaked that such a move was possible when he refused to confirm Manning as this week’s starter, for the 232nd time in New York’s past 233 games.

“Ultimately, this is a move that I felt was best for this team at this time,” Shurmur said. “I have said it since I got here (that) I am very fond of Eli. His work ethic, his preparation, his football intelligence. All those attributes are as good as I have ever seen in a player. And Eli worked as hard as you could ask of anybody to get ready for this season.

“This move is more about Daniel moving forward than about Eli.”

It wasn’t that Manning was terrible in New York’s opening losses. As has been the case for several seasons now, it’s not so much that Manning’s stats are bad, it’s that he isn’t consistently completing top-shelf passes down the field as he once did.

In a 35-17 loss at Dallas in Week 1 and in a 28-14 loss in the Giants’ home opener on Sunday, Manning completed 63% of his throws for two TDs and two interceptions, for a substandard passer rating of 78.7.

Sure, a lot of that has to do with the terrible pass protection he has received since basically the moment he last put down the Lombardi Trophy in February 2012. And it’s also a fact that his receiver corps since then — outside of Odell Beckham Jr. from 2014-18, when he was healthy — has been particularly poor.

No matter, he’ll now watch Giants games from the sideline as Jones’ backup.

The 22-year-old completed 85% of his preseason throws for two touchdowns, without interception. And Shurmur and anyone else you can put a microphone to inside Giants HQ will try to assure you that Jones has been progressing far faster than even they expected.

That’s fine.

But now Jones has to prove it, and against real NFL-level competition, meaning against coaches and starters game-planning specifically to defend him — which typically is not the case in August.

In a training-camp interview in July I asked Jones how much pressure he felt, given that everyone and their brother who cares about the Giants expected him to take over from Manning earlier than later this season.

“I see it as a tremendous opportunity, for me to come into a situation with someone like Eli, a future Hall of Fame quarterback who has played very well for a long period of time,” Jones said. “Being able to watch him and learn from him is a huge opportunity.

“Maybe there’s some pressure with it, but I think I’m in a good spot. As long as I’m progressing and taking steps forward, I think I’ll be fine.”

Jones performed more than merely fine in the preseason. In four games, he completed 29 of 34 passes (85.3%) for 416 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a glittering 137.2 rating.

As for Manning’s future, outside of a one-week benching for Geno Smith in November 2017, he had been the Giants’ starter since Week 11 of 2004, when he supplanted Kurt Warner.

Manning’s career record as New York’s starter is 116-116 (.500) in the regular season, and a glistening 8-4 (.667) in the playoffs, including those two Super Bowl championships following the 2007 and 2011 seasons when both times he was named Super Bowl MVP.

His benching at age 38 now begs at least two pertinent, urgent questions:

  • For how much longer will Manning be a Giant?
  • For how much longer will Manning even play in the NFL?

Only Manning himself can answer both questions — to (1) because the Giants aren’t going to outright release him before season’s end, and because he has a no-trade clause in his contract; and to (2) because retirement, of course, is entirely up to him.

Whether the Giants attempt to find a trade partner by the Oct. 29 deadline that is amenable to Manning will be observed most closely.

With so many other teams now without the quarterback they started the season with, or intended to, and will be without for part or all of the remaining schedule — such as Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New Orleans and maybe Carolina — it’s indeed quite possible Manning gets dealt to a destination favourable to him long before Halloween week.

NOW CAM’S HURT

It sure looked like Carolina QB Cam Newton played injured in last Thursday’s loss to Tampa Bay.

Afterward he all but said as much, referencing his shoulder and foot. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera claimed Newton would not practise Tuesday because of a foot issue, but claimed the foot in question had “nothing to do” with his awful performance vs. the Bucs.

NFL Network reported Tuesday that Newton indeed aggravated a foot injury against Tampa Bay, and that his status for Sunday’s game at Arizona.

STEELERS ACQUIRE DOLPHIN

The Dolphins’ yard sale continues. Miami and Pittsburgh confirmed the Monday night report that the Dolphins sent second-year safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers, along with a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 seventh-rounder. Going to Miami: Pittsburgh’s 2020 first-rounder and fifth-rounder plus a 2021 sixth-rounder.

Dolphins GM Chris Grier defended his latest trade of a top performer:

“We’re not going to sit here on a bunch of money or anything. The plan is to build a winner here. No one likes losing. We’ve talked about building a team that’s going to win and compete for championships for a long time, instead of being in this one year, and then you fall back for two or three.

“Again, it is a long-term vision, but we will be aggressive.”

EXTRA POINTS: Jacksonville CB Jalen Ramsey said neither he nor his agent leaked that he has requested a trade, because he said he didn’t want it to be a distraction to his teammates in preparing for Thursday night’s big divisional home game against Tennessee. “Right now, I’m still a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’m happy about that” … New York Jets backup QB Trevor Siemian, who started Monday night’s 23-3 loss to Cleveland as regular starter Sam Darnold battles mono, reportedly is out for the season with the ankle injury he suffered while being sacked … QB Colin Kaepernick’s agent reportedly has reached out to QB-needy teams.

JoKryk@postmedia.com

@JohnKryk

 

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