clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What does Eli Manning’s benching mean for Geno Smith and Davis Webb?

New, comments

Manning’s likely done in New York, but there are two other futures that have yet to be determined.

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Giants Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The New York Giants officially pulled the plug on their 2017 season when they announced they would be benching Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith on Tuesday.

“Geno will start this week,” head coach Ben McAdoo said. “Over the last five games, we will take a look at Geno, and we will also give Davis an opportunity.”

The Giants are 2-9, and there’s a month left in the season. If the season ended today, they’d have the No. 3-overall pick. With an NFL draft coming up that is rich in quarterback talent, the Giants are making the right move in seeing what they have in other players on the roster, while knowing the losses will come.

Much of the immediate concern has been on Manning, but the other two Giants quarterbacks have an opportunity in front of them.

Smith is finally getting another chance

Those who automatically dismiss Smith as not being a good quarterback are being a tad lazy.

Smith has had some bad injury luck since entering the NFL. He tore his ACL in October 2016 while quarterback of the New York Jets. He was making his first start of the season and was play well, completing 4 of 8 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in a quarter and a half.

It was Smith’s second major injury in 14 months. His 2015 season was destroyed after being punched in the face by IK Enemkpali, which resulted in a broken jaw over a $600 plane ticket. Ryan Fitzpatrick played well in his place, and took his job by the time he healed up in the two months afterward.

Smith is going to be coming into the starting role fresh. He’s played in just four games the past three seasons, with his only start coming last year when he tore his ACL. He’s 27 years old now and probably isn’t in the Giants’ future plans, but he serves as a way to ease Davis Webb into action. It’s also going to serve as a tryout for this offseason, when he becomes a free agent.

If there’s somebody that’s going to be ready for something like this, it’s Smith, and he knows it.

“I’ve been in this situation before, honestly,” he said. “Just last year. I went through the same things, so you kind of have to expect everything.”

Four years ago, he was thrust into the starting job as a rookie when Mark Sanchez suffered a shoulder injury. He struggled on a team that wasn’t exactly talented, but still managed to go 8-8 thanks to the NFL’s sixth-best defense. He made strides in his second year, taking his passer rating from 66.5 to 77.5 and finishing the last four games of that season with 1,001 passing yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 105.3 passer rating.

But then, he had a bad stretch of injuries. He’s never been a star, but he’s also not a dumpster fire like many try to make him out to be.

There’s no pressure on Webb

As a third-round draft selection in 2017 who received limited snaps in the preseason, Webb’s coming into this thing as well as a third-string quarterback could. He’s not starting this week, and may not even play at all in Week 13 — which gives him plenty of time to prepare, though he says things haven’t changed for him.

“It doesn’t affect my preparation. I’ve said this before, I get up here pretty early and I stay here pretty dang late, and I always prepare like if my opportunity came tomorrow, I’d be ready, and I approached it that way since the day I got here,” Webb said. “It doesn’t really affect much, but right now, I’m going to be the best teammate I can be for [Eli] and Geno, and we’re going to try to help us win our game on Sunday.”

ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports the Giants plan to give him the bulk of the remaining starts this season, the first of which could come in Week 14 against Dallas. While they’d prefer he start immediately, they felt it was best to not shock him with a road trip to Oakland with limited reps.

Webb played three seasons at Texas Tech, before transferring to Cal in 2016 for his senior season. At Cal, he completed nearly 62 percent of his passes for 37 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

So what should we expect from these guys?

Nobody’s expecting Smith or Webb to solve all the Giants’ problems. The team has one of the worst rushing games in the NFL, averaging 91.3 yards per game and with just three touchdowns all season — one of which belongs to Manning.

In Week 4, Manning had the team’s longest rushing touchdown since 2015 — he’s not a guy you could say has a reputation as a running quarterback.

Worse for Smith and Webb is the season-ending injuries that Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall suffered in Week 5. Sterling Shepard has missed the past two weeks with migraines, leaving the Giants with Tavarres King and Roger Lewis at wide receiver.

The Giants’ issues go beyond that, though. This season, the Giants have started eight offensive line combinations in 11 games because of injuries — a similar shuffle that plagued the Vikings last season.

But the offense’s ineffectiveness isn’t new. Even when the offense had weapons last year, it still struggled as an incomplete product:

Defensively, the Giants have had their fair share of injuries. But from an offensive standpoint, Smith and Webb will be tasked with trying to do a lot with a little.

The comparisons to Manning and his numbers are inevitable, but shouldn’t be a measure of how Smith and Webb perform. If they can limit turnovers and keep the Giants competitive, that should be considered a win for either player.

Neither player is likely going to throw for 300 yards or three touchdowns, but they don’t have to. The Giants are very limited offensively with weapons. The next five weeks are a tryout and evaluation for Smith, Webb, and the Giants — and nothing more.