Maybe the benching of Eli Manning shouldn't have come as such a shock on Tuesday, because Giants coach Ben McAdoo sure has been telegraphing such a move for a while.
Though both player and coach have denied it, there has long been a feeling among people who know Manning that there has been a frosty relationship between the Giants coach and quarterback, and a belief that McAdoo has felt that quarterback play has been one of the team's biggest problems. The evidence has been in a couple of critical remarks McAdoo has made about his franchise quarterback.
And those remarks, while generally mild, are noteworthy since McAdoo has gone to great lengths to avoid criticizing just about everyone else.
It all started at the NFL scouting combine in March when McAdoo was questioned about the Giants' most obvious need - help along the offensive line. He was coming off his first year as an NFL coach and his offense - Top 10 in his two years as offensive coordinator - was beginning to bottom out.
The consensus among just about everyone was that the offensive line was a mess, which left Manning little time and space to operate McAdoo's scheme. McAdoo, in oddly strong fashion, disagreed.
"I think that's an easy blame," he said. "I think that's an easy one-liner that you can throw out there and think you have all the answers. I don't necessarily agree with that.
"The offensive line, they need to play better. I agree. (But) I think Eli needs to do a better job playing with fast feet, and I think he needs to sit on that back foot in the pocket. We're seeing a lot of man coverage, so it's going to take a little time for the receivers to get open, so everything may not be rhythmical. He's got to play with fast feet. … Things aren't always clean in this league. You're seeing a lot of dirty pockets."
After the shock wore off that McAdoo was blaming Manning for the crummy play of the offensive line in front of him, some speculated that this was simply McAdoo's way of trying to light a fire under Manning, to let him know he needs to play better too. Others wondered if it wasn't McAdoo letting it slip that his offense would be better with a more mobile quarterback - like what the Packers had with Aaron Rodgers when McAdoo worked in Green Bay.
McAdoo insisted he wasn't being critical of Manning and, for the most part, the matter was dropped. But it was revived when the Giants lost 24-10 to the Lions in Week 2, in small part because of a delay of game penalty the Giants took on a fourth-and-goal from the 2 in the fourth quarter.
McAdoo, when asked about that penalty, blamed it on "Sloppy quarterback play."
"We have a veteran quarterback who has played a lot of football," McAdoo said. "I expect us to get the ball snapped."
Fair enough. But in that same press conference, McAdoo jumped through figurative hoops not to criticize left tackle Ereck Flowers by name, even though Flowers gave up three sacks. In fact, McAdoo even said Flowers "did some good things" - despite all the evidence to the contrary. It happened again in Week 10, after a disastrous loss in San Francisco, when he called a Manning fumble "a costly mistake" and "something we can't have."
Again, that's not unfair criticism. But McAdoo had no strong words for cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple, whose efforts seemed to be so lacking in that game that many accused both of them of quitting on their team.
Why has McAdoo always been so willing to criticize Manning but not anyone else? That's a question many have pondered - especially those who know Manning well. The quarterback has consistently taken the high road and insisted he and McAdoo get along just fine.
But to many others it has always felt like their relationship was careening towards an inevitable, ugly end. And it was ugly, there's no doubt about that. Even McAdoo seemed to understand that.
How much did he care? Well, that was harder to determine. He explained this inexplicable move very matter-of-factly, with none of the emotion and care that Manning - and the moment -- really deserved.
"I think a lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have done a lot for a lot of teams haven't been able to choose the way that they get to move on," McAdoo said. "And I'm not saying that we're moving on, but at some point in time, you have to make hard, tough decisions for the best of the franchise. And, that's what I have to do here."
Whether he had to make it is up for debate. But it sure has seemed like he's wanted to do it all along.