Padanilam: Blame McAdoo for Eli’s benching
Benjamin Padanilam | Friday, December 1, 2017
Look, let’s get one thing clear.
It wasn’t about Geno Smith. It wasn’t about Davis Webb. It wasn’t even really about Eli Manning.
It was, and has always been, about Ben McAdoo.
When news of the New York Giants benching Manning came out Tuesday, it sent a shockwave through the league and media.
The 2-9 Giants were deciding to bench the best quarterback in their history — he of two Super Bowl rings and MVPs — for the season’s last five weeks in favor of the 27-year-old Smith.
And look, we all know how Manning has spent much of the season without his four best and most experienced wide receivers coming into the season — leaving the quarterback to rely upon a receiving corps with 11 catches to its collective resume, which also happens to make sense considering the 20 drops the group has this season, third-most in the NFL.
I could talk about how talk of Manning’s “poor play” is exaggerated, considering his yards, touchdowns and completion percentage are all roughly around the middle of the league and his passer rating is just slightly below last year’s mark — when he lead the Giants to an 11-5 record.
And I could talk about how ridiculous the excuse of the Giants investigating their youth at the position when they’re turning to a quarterback in Smith, who is very likely not the future of the team. Even Webb probably isn’t the answer, considering the Giants only let him throw the ball 34 times in the preseason and only five of the 34 quarterbacks drafted in the third round since 1990 have ended up a starter for at least two seasons in the NFL.
But none of that gets at the real issue.
The real issue for the Giants this season is, and always has been, its head coach.
Well before Tuesday’s debacle, McAdoo had already experienced his issues with this team. He both lost the respect of some of the team’s most respected players and poorly handled the situations which resulted. It got to the point that two players went anonymously to ESPN and reported McAdoo had lost the locker room, saying the coach “throws us under the bus all the time. He’s ran us into the ground and people wonder why we’ve been getting got.” And then he held a team meeting which some felt came “too late” where he once again called out his team for their shortcomings, not even pointing the microscope on himself.
But it all culminated with Tuesday.
McAdoo has wanted Manning out of the picture for some time; looking for a scapegoat for this season’s disaster, he picked the franchise’s beloved quarterback as his target. First, he publicly criticized the quarterback for not calling a timeout in a crucial situation — a fair criticism, but one which did not need to be made publicly and a mistake which McAdoo himself carries at least equal responsibility for.
Then, he reportedly has called out Manning several times to Giants coaching staff, blaming him for their disastrous season and McAdoo’s inability to win with him. And Wednesday, Giants owner John Mara revealed McAdoo presented Manning with a far different proposal than they had discussed previously for how to handle his playing time going forward — a proposal which Mara said he wasn’t surprised in hindsight Manning would turn down after “it was presented the way Ben thought it ought to be presented.”
You can say what you want about the NFL being a business. You can make the case that Manning’s benching isn’t altogether surprising.
But the way in which it was handled and the reason for which it was made is pathetic — almost as pathetic as the job McAdoo has done leading the Giants this season.
I’m not a Giants fan, but even I recognize what Manning has meant to New York and the Giants. He’s dealt with the critical New York media for 14 seasons, showing a class and professionalism which wasn’t always afforded to him, particularly Tuesday. He’s delivered them two Super Bowl rings, but he was treated as if he was the ringless Carmelo Anthony — and most everyone agreed that he was owed a lot more respect than he got from a certain other New York sports team.
Like Philip Rivers, I think Manning should still be playing. Some might disagree. But what we should all agree on is McAdoo’s pathetic handling of this situation and this team. Manning deserved better, and so do the Giants.
And they won’t get better until McAdoo is no longer their head coach.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.