EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Giants believed they had a chance to be a playoff contender this season, and they made a huge bet that Eli Manning could be the one to lead them there. GM Dave Gettleman believed he could do it with a better offensive line in front of him. Pat Shurmur said multiple times he thought Manning had "years" left in his stellar career.
They were so sure that they brought Manning back despite an $11.5 million salary, a $5 million roster bonus, and the fact that he would cost them $23.2 million under the NFL's salary cap.
What a colossal waste of money that turned out to be.
The only defense the Giants have ever had of their decision to give all that money to Manning for one more season was that they truly believed he gave them a chance for real success -- even if everyone else believed they were delusional. Otherwise they could've saved the money, decided to hand the ball off to a rookie quarterback on Day 1, and use the cap room to fill the many other holes they have on their rebuilding team.
It's hindsight now, but obviously that's exactly what they should have done if their patience was so thin that they were going to give up on their Manning plan after just two games.
That's really the most stunning part about this quick decision by the Giants to usher in the Daniel Jones Era. It's that they really had a conviction about the direction they were headed, yet they're willing to surrender and throw that all away at the first sign of trouble. What it looks like now is they didn't really have a plan.
In fact, when the bigger picture and past moves are factored in, it looks like they didn't have a clue.
"You know what? I don't see that," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said on Wednesday. "I don't understand that narrative. Because Daniel Jones is going to have the benefit of, to start here, 14 games of a guy that's done it. This guy is what a Giant exemplifies, not only as a player, but as a person. And he's going to have the benefit of this guys' assistance as we go through it."
No one is suggesting that Jones won't benefit from the presence of Manning, or that it won't help him immensely to learn from Manning's example. But for $23 million, that is a heck of a high price to pay for a tutor and a mentor. They could've saved the cap room and asked Manning to leave behind some "How to" tapes.
By doing it their misguided way, by bringing their $23 million quarterback back and running from him two weeks later, all they did was waste two very expensive weeks. There's no way around that. The Giants' plan going in was to give Manning a chance. A real chance.
But this isn't a real chance. They weren't even willing to wait to see if things could improve once Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate returned, or if James Bettcher could somehow patch the holes in his putrid defense?
It looks like they panicked when things began to go wrong.
It doesn't even matter if they try to sell the idea that Jones gives them a better chance to win, which is exactly what Shurmur was selling on Wednesday. Nor does it matter if he actually does. This is about their original sin: bringing Manning back in the first place.
Why waste all that money and, more importantly, that cap room for two lousy games?
Gettleman -- who hasn't spoken about the quarterback switch, by the way -- certainly made it seem like he had a lot more patience than that. He spoke about those models -- the Kansas City one where the young quarterback sits for a year, and the Green Bay one when it's three years -- and he grew agitated when people suggested that Manning was close to done. He called it a "false narrative." He even correctly spoke about how he needed to build the team up around him so Manning could have a chance to succeed.
What happened to all that? Crickets from management after two weeks of watching Manning have no open receivers to throw to and no defensive support? That's all it took to convince them to change?
And if you don't think the Giants intended to stick this out a little longer originally, or that they made him think he'd have a longer leash, consider what the mild-mannered, never-controversial Manning said on Wednesday when he was asked if he felt the Giants misled him.
"I'm not going to go in to all that," he said. "This is the situation."
It is. And it's a situation where the Giants could have been much farther ahead in their rebuilding process if they had used the $23 million in cap room that they spent on Manning on, perhaps, a pass rusher or any competent defensive player. Some better players on the roster would've done more for Jones' development and long-term prospects than sitting next to Manning in the meeting room will do.
There is value to that, of course. And Manning, forever the team player, will surely continue to take Jones under his wing. But neither of them can make the defense better. They can't make the receiving corps better. They can't do anything about the mismanagement that led to a decision that now seems to make no sense.
No, $23 million in salary cap space wouldn't have magically fixed those problems, but it would have made a difference. Spending it on someone who is going to actually play over the next 14 games certainly would've been better than what they're doing, which is essentially just throwing all that money away.