EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Geno Smith will start for the Giants on Sunday, and he might even get a start after that.
But make no mistake: As the Giants look to a future without Eli Manning, they are really looking at Davis Webb.
That point was stressed by multiple team sources in the wake of the Giants' stunning decision to bench their iconic franchise quarterback after 210 straight starts. With that announcement, they also anointed Smith as their starter this Sunday in Oakland. But they did not announce anything beyond that, other than that "at some point in time" they'll play Webb, too.
Why not right away? There appear to be multiple reasons, but the biggest seems to be that the coaching staff doesn't feel Webb is ready. The 22-year-old rookie from Cal has taken very limited reps in practice since the start of the regular season, mostly as the quarterback of the scout team. Even when the Giants knew this season was lost, and knew they might want to see Webb at some point, the coaches inexplicably made no effort to get him ready to start.
So over the weekend, when they discussed the idea of sitting Manning, they decided to give Webb a week or two of increased practiced reps, a team source said. Their hope is that he'll get up to speed quickly, possibly to start or to play the second half of the Giants home game against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 10.
They could also throw him into the starting job the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles, but given that the Eagles are 10-1, have the NFL's highest-scoring offense, and the league's sixth-ranked defense, that's hardly the ideal spot for the third-round pick to make his first professional start.
It's also possible, though unlikely, that Webb will see action against the Raiders on Sunday. Manning said he will be Smith's backup on Sunday, but the Giants could activate all three quarterbacks, which would give Webb an opportunity if Smith gets hurt or is ineffective -- especially since the Giants know turning back to Manning in those situations could prove to be awkward.
However it happens, though, the Giants absolutely want to see what Webb can do over the final few weeks of the season. The reason, a source said, is obvious: The Giants know they're going to end up with a Top 5 pick in the 2018 NFL draft, possibly as high as 2 or 3. That will put them in position to draft a franchise quarterback, possibly USC's Sam Darnold or UCLA's Josh Rosen.
They are very high on Webb, though, so they want to give him a shot before they make a decision about whether or not to draft and develop somebody else.
And whenever that opportunity comes, Webb promises he'll be ready.
"My job is to be prepared and I go out there every single Sunday thinking I'm going to be activated and if there's any chance that I play, I want to be ready," he said. "So that doesn't change. And don't blow that out of proportion. I've been doing that since my first preseason action, since my first game against the Steelers. I've prepared that way, like, 'Hey, I'm going to play three quarters.' I'm getting my mind right. That's just how I am and it doesn't affect anything."