Eli Manning originally gave rookie Davis Webb the nickname “Dragon” and starting Sunday it’s time for the Giants to adopt a new slogan:
ENTER THE DRAGON!
Webb should be starting the team’s final four games of the regular season at quarterback.
Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo is starting Eli Manning instead on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium, one week after Giant brass ended Manning’s 210-game consecutive start streak for nothing and started Geno Smith in Oakland.
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But if Webb isn’t starting against the ‘Boys he at least should be active for the first time all season, serve as the No. 2 quarterback, and play at some point in the game. (The origin of “Dragon,” by the way, remains a mystery. Manning, asked to explain, only said, “It’s a lifestyle,” with a grin.)
McAdoo already cost the Giants several opportunities to evaluate Webb by leaving him inactive for every game of the team’s 2-10 start and not changing Webb’s practice load even after the season went in the toilet.
Webb’s being inactive last Sunday in Oakland, even after the Giants benched Manning, was an all-time clueless decision. Honestly, they benched Manning for a look at other quarterbacks and left one of those QBs inactive? How?
At the latest Webb should have been active coming out of the team’s Week 8 bye. He would have seen snaps in blowout losses to the Rams and Niners at least. Another reason Jerry Reese and McAdoo got canned.
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Webb, 22, Reese’s third-round pick out of Cal in April, is smart and hard-working and talented and conducts himself like a professional and acts like a future franchise quarterback. It’s time to give him the opportunity to prove he can play like one at the NFL level, too.
Webb also is now in an awkward position: the GM and coach who drafted him were fired on Monday, and now a new general manager and head coach will arrive likely holding a top-three pick in next spring’s draft, in position to take a top college QB.
The Giants need to start and play Webb to inform them on whether they should draft a quarterback high, and Webb could benefit himself from a chance to prove to the new GM what he already has in the building.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Webb already get along well — they even have a “Dragon” handshake — so that counts for something. But the kid needs to play. And the fact that he’s not starting on Sunday is one of the many maddening aspects of the decision to go back to Manning.
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One: John Mara shouldn’t be crowdsourcing how to handle his quarterback situation.
Mara signed off on McAdoo’s plan to bench Manning at halftime in Oakland because he wanted to see Smith and Webb play in the final five games of a lost season. But he didn’t anticipate the strong, emotional reactions from both Manning and the Giant fan base.
He was stung by Manning’s refusal to play under such circumstances and even more by the outrage of fans, ex-Manning teammates and NFL people across the country. And now he and Steve Tisch have fired Reese and McAdoo and they’re starting Manning to appease the fan base and keep the seats filled.
It’s a bad look.
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Second: Mara is trying to make it right with Manning but that will never happen because there is no taking back what Mara, Reese and McAdoo did.
Manning said he’s not angry but he was unhappy and it will take more than going back to Manning against Dallas to win back the trust of the faithful mortified by the Giants’ poor judgment and lack of awareness in this situation.
Third: if Spagnuolo and GM Kevin Abrams are going back to Manning because of Mara’s edict that “I would not put up with any talk in this building about tanking or anything else and I expected us to go out and try to win these games,” it’s fair to ask: does Manning still give the Giants the best chance to win?
Smith isn’t the Giants’ future the way Webb could be, but guess what? Since the Week 8 bye, the Giants offense has averaged 13.25 points per game in Manning’s four starts. The offense scored 17 points directed by Smith in Oakland.
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Geno’s numbers against the Raiders (21-of-34 passing, 212 yards, one TD pass, two turnovers) also are virtually identical to Manning’s averages in his last four starts (20-of-33.75, 202.75 yards, 1 TD, 1 turnover). And Smith led scoring drives of 88 yards in nine plays and 74 yards in 11 plays on Sunday, a dramatic difference from the offense’s three points under Manning in Washington on Thanksgiving.
But we digress. Webb is the quarterback the Giants need to evaluate for the long-term and they must do it now and Manning won’t only understand it; he’ll support it.
Manning said on WFAN Monday that “me and Davis had a competition on who can get the most completions” when both were running scout team in last week’s practices. The result? “I (swept) him. I won every day,” Manning said. “I was in his head a little bit. He’s still a rookie; I’m still a vet.”
Manning always would have supported Webb going into these games when they got away on natural terms. The Daily News has been banging the drum since the bye week for Webb to dress and play, and Mara clearly felt the same way. But he, Reese and McAdoo botched the transition so badly that it cost two of them their jobs and Mara only kept his because, well, he’s not gonna fire himself.
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Presumably Mara now sees this as going back to the plan as he had envisioned it all along: start Manning, get Webb in the game at some point late when the time is right.
Better late than never but this should have happened a long time ago. And Webb shouldn’t just be in uniform Sunday; he should be starting. These are the 2017 Giants, though. So they’re not doing the right thing.
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