The last time something like this happened with the Giants was June 15, 1994 -- a day late Giants owner Wellington Mara called "a day of overwhelming sadness." It was the day then-coach Dan Reeves pulled Phil Simms aside and shocked him, telling him his days as a Giant were done.
It was a decision made by the late GM George Young and there really were some valid reasons. Simms was rehabbing a shoulder injury. His future was uncertain. And his $2.3 million salary was too high in the early days of the salary cap, which Young was struggling to figure out.
Still it was so stunning, so upsetting, that Mara even came to the press room to say he didn't agree with the move.
But Mara recognized there were reasons for the decision.
And really, as much as the release of Simms hurt, that decision made far more sense than what the current Giants just did.
The current Giants just essentially ended the Eli Manning Era in the middle of a miserable season that can't reasonably be blamed on him. He isn't hurt. In fact he's started 210 consecutive games. And his salary, while high ($10.5 million), is in line with what franchise quarterbacks make and the Giants are not in terrible salary cap shape, even with Manning's $22.2 million cap number on the books.
And considering Manning is 36 -- not terribly old for a quarterback anymore -- and still putting up numbers that put him easily in the top half of the quarterbacks in the NFL, despite the inferior cast around him, there is -- or was -- a reasonable chance he'd be the Giants quarterback in 2018.
So no, there really was no reason for this.
Let's start with the Giants' expressed reason for doing what they did -- telling Manning that he could keep his starting streak alive as a token of their appreciation, but they'd be taking him out in every game to get some other quarterbacks some action. Manning, classy, as always, declined that "opportunity", saying "If you are going to play the other guys, play them. Starting just to keep the streak going and knowing you won't finish the game and have a chance to win it is pointless to me."
The Giants insisted the move was about the future. Giants coach Ben McAdoo said "We owe it to the organization to get an evaluation of everybody on the roster, and that includes at the quarterback position. Giants GM Jerry Reese added "We have to do what is best for the organization moving forward."
But really? Think about that for a moment, and then look at what they actually did, because their stated plan isn't to give an extended look to rookie Davis Webb -- their most recent third-round pick and a player they admit could be their Quarterback of the Future. They are turning, at least in the short term, to Geno Smith -- the former quarterback of the Jets who had two seasons to prove he was a competent starter and didn't, and then saw his career flame out in the most undignified of fashions when he got his jaw broken in a locker room fight with a teammate.
In fairness to Smith, he's done everything right as he tried to turn his career around. Instead of looking around for an easy place to win a starting job, he signed with the Giants where he seemed to have no shot at playing, to rehab his knee, learn about professionalism for Manning, and rehabilitate his shattered image.
But are the Giants really considering him the heir apparent to Manning? He's 27. In two seasons as a starter he threw 34 interceptions in 30 games (and 25 touchdown passes, while completing about 57 percent of his passes). The Jets, a team absolutely desperate for anything that resembles a franchise quarterback, had no interest in bringing him back and few of his old Jet teammates balked at that decision. Sure, back in March, McAdoo left the door open to Smith being next in line. But that was more McAdoo doing his usual shtick of answering nothing. It wasn't serious. No one in the organization thought it was.
So if it's about the future, why not just turn to Webb -- the way the Giants turned right to Manning back in 2004 as soon as Tom Coughlin decided the placeholder, Kurt Warner, couldn't get the job done? Webb is 22. He was drafted because the Giants were looking for Manning's eventual replacement. Why waste his time backing up Smith, even for a game or two?
If you're waiting for a logical answer, don't. There isn't one. Because there's no justification for what the Giants are doing. Neither Smith nor Webb have any shot to come in and light up the scoreboard with a crumbling offensive line in front of them, tight end Evan Engram hitting a rookie wall, and the likes of Roger Lewis and Tavarres King at receiver.
And even if they did? So what? If you think the Giants are going to pass on Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen if they end up with a Top 4 pick in the draft -- which they will -- you haven't been paying attention to the Giants' history of taking top quarterbacks when they can. Nothing Webb or Smith does the rest of the way will change that.
Oh, and one more thing. If this is McAdoo and Reese making this decision, why would John Mara and Steve Tisch even allow that? This is a monumental decision for the franchise -- one that has made them look terrible and small. And at this point, who's to say Reese and McAdoo will be making decisions about the future after this season? Until that's decided, why let them mess with a franchise icon now?
All those are valid questions with no answers. At least 23 years ago we knew the reasons -- the injury, the money, the salary cap mess. And we knew that Wellington Mara was upset with the inglorious end of the Simms Era -- even if he understood why.
But this treatment of a franchise icon is much more inexplicable. The Giants know they have to deal with a future without Manning, and they are absolutely right to plan ahead. But there was absolutely no need for that future to begin at this moment. Especially since the Giants really still don't have an actual post-Manning plan.