OAKLAND, Calif. — For the first time in more than 13 years, Eli Manning spent an NFL Sunday as a spectator rather than a participant.
His 210-game streak of consecutive regular season starts ended with a benching this week, putting Manning in an unfamiliar role as backup for the first time since making his first career start as a rookie in November 2004.
“I want to be out there,” Manning said after New York’s 24-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. “I want to be playing. This is the situation we’re in. We’re (2-10) and they want to take a look at other guys, I understand it. I’m not mad at anybody. When you’re in this situation, whatever happens there’s a reason and you have to accept it.”
After going out on the field for the pregame coin toss as one of New York’s captains, Manning accepted it on the sideline while Geno Smith got the start. When the Giants had the ball, Manning stood mostly by himself with his helmet off and an ear piece in his ear to hear the play calls.
Then when the offense came to the sideline, Manning usually sat down with Smith to give him some pointers of what he saw.
“I knew once we got to today that I’d be a good teammate,” Manning said. “I’d try to support all the guys and be ready to play if I was called upon, support Geno, support all the guys, and do what I had to do to. If I saw something then I needed to tell them.”
Smith appreciated the support, although it didn’t lead to a win. Smith lost a pair of fumbles on sacks in the second quarter with New York in scoring position.
He fared slightly better in the second half and finished the day 21 for 34 for 212 yards and a 10-yard TD pass to Evan Engram in the fourth quarter.
Coach Ben McAdoo, whose own future is in doubt because of a lost season, wouldn’t commit to a quarterback for next week. Rookie Davis Webb was inactive Sunday, but the organization wants to get a look at him before the season ends.
“We need to go take a look at the tape first and put our heads together to see what direction we want to go,” McAdoo said. “But Geno didn’t do anything today that would cost him an opportunity.”
The 37-year-old Manning’s future also is uncertain for the first time since taking over as starter from Kurt Warner on Nov. 21, 2004. Manning started every game since, including 12 in the postseason, and won a pair of Super Bowl MVPs for the franchise. Manning holds almost all of the franchise’s major passing records and topped the 50,000-yard passing mark earlier this season.
“Can’t control what’s going to happen,” he said. “We got four games left, so I’m going to finish out this season in whatever capacity they need me to do.”
The only thing Manning was certain of was the fact his career is not over.
“I plan on playing next season,” he said.
Whether that’s with the Giants or he moves to another team like big brother Peyton did after a long stint with the Colts before winning a Super Bowl in Denver remains to be seen.
The Broncos once again could be looking for a quarterback, and Manning’s old coach, Tom Coughlin, is running the show in Jacksonville and could be interested.
The situation with the Giants remains uncertain as well, with speculation about the job security of McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.
“I’m going to coach this team as long as my key card works,” McAdoo said. “I’m not asking and I haven’t heard a thing. I’m going to keep my head down and keep doing my job until I hear otherwise.”
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