I use (and repeat) the hedgy phrase "almost certainly" not by accident, because the Giants are a staid and deliberate organization not given to dramatic change. They've historically prided themselves on their commitment to loyalty and continuity. They've had only three different GMs in 39 years. They eschew mascots and cheerleaders. Their "color rush" uniforms are just white with blue numbers.
But this? This feels a little bit seismic. An in-season move to bench Eli Manning, who has started an incredible 210 straight games for them at quarterback and beaten the Tom Brady Patriots in two separate Super Bowls along the way, feels like a harbinger of bigger, un-Giant-like change.
Sitting down Manning for Jets washout Geno Smith and third-round rookie Davis Webb is the act of an organization that has given up on more than just this miserable season. This isn't like benching Kurt Warner for Manning in 2004, when Manning was the No. 1 overall pick and Warner was passing through town between accomplishments for other teams. This is a weird shot in the dark that overlooks Manning's accomplishments in favor of some nebulous concept of "needing to evaluate." The Giants right now are out of character, and feel like a team on the verge of a major housecleaning.
Start at the top. This is Jerry Reese's 11th year as general manager. In those 11 years, the Giants have made the playoffs four times, including the first two. Yes, they have won two Super Bowls in that time, and Reese will always have that accomplishment on his résumé.But of greater relevance to the Giants' current situation is Reese's horrendous draft record and inability to build a roster capable of sustaining success. Reese has drafted only six players in 11 years that have become Pro Bowlers, which ranks 21st in the league. Only three of the players he drafted between 2008 and 2017 have become full-time starters.
Reese inherited the 2007 team that won his first ring -- that was his first year as GM. Four years later, the 2011 team was 7-7 with two games to go before rallying to win the final two and marching through the playoffs on one of the most improbable Super Bowl runs of all time. The two men most responsible for that accomplishment were coach Tom Coughlin and Manning. One was let go two years ago. The other just got benched.
At some point, the scapegoating has to stop, and the blame has to reach the office of the man in charge of building the team. The Giants are 41-51 since their last Super Bowl title, and the one very good year in that stretch was last season's 11-5 season that followed a free-agent spending spree. Good on Reese for picking the right free agents, but this year's 2-9 wreck proves what he already knew -- that free agency isn't the way to build sustained success. If he'd been better at the biggest part of his job, the free-agent spree would never have been necessary.
So Reese should be at the end of his run as GM, and if he's gone that likely means some major front-office and scouting department overhaul. It also means the coaching staff is in the crosshairs.
Ben McAdoo feels like he's been set up as the latest scapegoat. There's absolutely no way this decision was McAdoo acting alone, and he admitted it was executed after discussions with Reese and with ownership. But in keeping with their policy regarding in-season public comments, the Giants' GM and owners declined to be interviewed Tuesday and instead sent McAdoo out to take questions about a decision that severely weakens his chances to win any of what could be his final five games as their coach.
If the Giants were running the way they usually do, it would seem way too soon to make a conclusion on a head coach after only two years -- one of which was that 11-5 season. But if they're going to bring in a new GM, it makes sense objectively to at least consider changing head coaches at the same time. It's probably not unfair to say they should have changed both two years ago when they were running Coughlin out of town, but again ... Giants. Deliberate. Not given to major, sweeping change.
But if all bets are off, then sure, you can build a case, based on how poorly this season has gone, for moving on from McAdoo as well as Reese. You can build a case for wholesale coaching staff changes, with Steve Spagnuolo's defense languishing near the bottom of the league, just as his defenses did in 2015 and 2012 and more or less every year but once since his the end of his first term as Giants defensive coordinator nine years ago.
There are a lot of Giants people who deserve a lot more blame than does Manning, for whom they have stubbornly refused to build an offensive line and a run game and who has nonetheless answered the bell for every single game and just about every single practice since his rookie season of 2004. Manning didn't deserve what happened Tuesday. He doesn't deserve to sit on the bench and watch lesser, more inexperienced quarterbacks operate the team whose Ring of Honor he'll someday inhabit. Manning has given the Giants too much for them to send him out like this, and he'll be better off next year in Denver or Jacksonville or Arizona or wherever he ends up.
The standings reflect the number of bad moves the people running the Giants have made in recent years. And while Manning bears some of the responsibility for the record, the fact of the matter is that this is a tear-down situation.
The Giants have been too broken for too long to fix on the fly. And while conceptually, that statement backs up the notion of "We need to get a look at what else we have at quarterback," Manning's place in Giants history should have transcended that. Smith is surely no answer, based on his body of NFL work, and Webb is a third-round flyer who'd do well to ever be as good as Manning is right now. This move is the move of an organization that has lost its way, has forgotten about loyalty and has no earthly idea where it's going from here.
That means Manning's pink slip should turn out to be just the first of many going out a month or so from now, when this Giants season reaches its merciful conclusion. This isn't the kind of move the Giants usually make. Which means the Giants are no longer the kind of organization they want to be. Which means no one is safe. Or should be.