Eli Manning, fighting back tears at times, said on Tuesday that he is not sure if he's played his last game as a Giant, in the wake of him being benched in favor of Geno Smith.
"I don't like it, but it's part of football -- you handle it. I'll do my job," said Manning, who was called in by head coach Ben McAdoo earlier on Tuesday to be told the news.
Manning's streak of 210 consecutive games -- the second-longest in NFL history -- will end. He was given the option to continue the streak, while coming out later in the game, but declined.
"That's not what it's about," Manning said about keeping his streak alive. "It's not a preseason game. ... that's not fair. Not fair to me, not fair to Geno. That's not how you play. You play to win."
"I don't have to make sense of it," Manning added. "This is what it is, something you've got to deal with. ... It's been a hard day to handle this."
"I spoke to Jerry Reese a little bit," Manning said. "Mr. Mara, he hadn't been in today, but he knows what's going on and I'll probably try to speak with him tomorrow at some time."
Manning, whose streak began on November 21, 2004, said he was unsure if he had played his last game with the Giants.
"I don't know," he said. "I'll take it one week at a time."
The 36-year-old Manning is under contract through the 2019 season, after which he'll be eligible for free agency.
Eli Manning deserved better than this.
He deserved better than a press release announcing that he was going to be benched for Geno Smith, just like he deserved better treatment from his coach the last two years and more support from the GM who picked his supporting cast over the last several seasons. Whatever your feelings on Manning, he has been the model spokesman for the franchise, he was the driving force behind two Super Bowl champions, the engineer of two heart-stopping, championship-winning drives.
He was everything the Giants hoped he'd be when former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi traded up for him in the 2004 draft, and much, much more.
To be essentially and unceremoniously dumped near the end of a 2-9 season for Smith and Davis Webb?
Shame on the Giants for that.
Yes, I know, Manning made the decision not to start. That's his typical way of taking the high road. The Giants were the ones that made the decision to push him at least a little aside with five games remaining to take a look at Smith and Webb. That's Smith, the failed starter of the Jets who can't possibly be the Giants' idea of a future franchise quarterback. And Webb, who hasn't taken a snap in his 11-game career.
Even if Manning -- 36 years old and still with two years left on his contract -- comes back next season, it's clear the Giants are ready to move on. And really, Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese have been kind of hinting at this for more than a year. They've let it be known, mostly in subtle ways, that they've felt Manning's play has been sub-par and he's been at least a partial reason for their offensive failures.
Anyone who has watched the Giants offense deteriorate over the last two years knows that Manning has been victimized by a poorly run offense, a terrible offensive line, questionable personnel, drop-happy receivers, and a lot of injuries to some of his best teammates. Through it all, he's been a model citizen, never even hinting at complaint. He just went out, played, took the hit for his team, his coach, and the GM that rarely talks to the media.
And this is the thanks he gets?
Hopefully this isn't the end of Eli Manning's career with the Giants, because he deserved a far better sendoff. He deserved to go out on his own terms. He deserved to prove that he could still play with a better team -- whether that team was the Giants or someone else.
He didn't deserve to be essentially shoved off a ship that is already sunk.