Giants fans, analysts and players alike have become accustomed to seeing Eli Manning starting under center, but for the first time in more than 13 years, the veteran signal-caller will be watching from the bench when Sunday’s Week 13 game against the Raiders kicks off.
Manning’s benching came as a shock to many, as he had started in 210 consecutive regular-season games for the team, a streak that will come to an end on Sunday. Even more surprising is that the Giants are starting veteran Geno Smith, rather than rookie quarterback Davis Webb. The team drafted Webb with the 87th pick in this year’s draft, and it would’ve made sense to start seeing what they have in the young signal-caller, especially since they’re currently in line for a top-3 pick in the 2018 draft.
Smith signed a one-year deal with the Giants in March, and has yet to start in a regular-season game for the team up to this point. He spoke with SNY NFL insider Ralph Vacchiano on Friday about what the opportunity means to him, and relayed how he feels about starting in place of Manning.
“First of all, I know it’s hard,” Smith said. “It was hard on me and I was only in my second year. It was hard on me last year when I got injured. I know it’s hard for him being a guy who has been a staple in this organization for the past decade. I can’t imagine what he’s going through, but I offered him my support, my friendship, my compassion…I’ve gained much more respect for him seeing the way he’s handled things in this situation.”
Smith also said he’s not going to approach Sunday’s game as if he has something to prove to his teammates or the Giants organization.
“I’m not going to go out there and try to make things happen if they aren’t there,” he said. “Go out there and execute the game plan, put the ball in the hands of the playmakers, get us into the right place and then let my natural ability take over. As far as proving anything to anyone, not even close. Not on my radar. The only thing I need to prove is to my teammates, to the guys on this staff, to the people in this building that I can get it done.”
It will be interesting to see how Smith’s teammates respond to him starting under center. Manning led the team to Super Bowl titles in the 2007 and 2011 seasons, and has earned a lot of respect from his cohorts in the locker room. As for Smith, he’ll need to limit his turnovers on Sunday, as he’s tossed 36 interceptions and only 28 touchdowns during the course of his five-year career.