John Mara had an impromptu session with the Tri-State media, voicing his complicity in the New York Giants’ benching of Eli Manning.
The last time New York Giants owner John Mara addressed the Tri-State media, Eli Manning was still the team’s starting quarterback.
Manning’s epic streak can now be used as a time reference, as the team continues to deal with blowback from their Tuesday announcement that the two-time Super Bowl MVP will be getting a day off for the first time since 2004. In his place stands Geno Smith, and Mara, in an impromptu session, announced his approval on Wednesday.
“I (had) the conversation with (general manager) Jerry (Reese),” Mara said. “I mentioned it to him a week or two ago, ‘don’t you think it’s time that we start to get a look at these other quarterbacks at some point during the games’, and he agreed. He said he had already had a conversation with Ben (McAdoo) about that.”
Mara stated that he rarely talks with coaches about playing time and personnel decisions, but had brought the idea to general manager Jerry Reese as the Giants’ situation became direr. The 62-year-old principal owner added he was “embarrassed” about the Giants’ 2-9 season, a season whose playoff hopes officially ended last Sunday afternoon.
“We’re 2-9, okay?” Mara rhetorically asked. “I’m embarrassed about that. Nobody’s doing a good job.”
The hardest part of the process, according to Mara, was getting the message to Manning. Though Mara was in New York City for league meetings, he communicated with his longtime quarterback over the phone. As reported in the team’s press statement yesterday, Manning was given the option of starting Sunday’s visit to Oakland with the understanding that Smith would enter the game in the second half. Once Manning vetoed that option, insisting the reigns be fully turned over to Smith, he encouraged Mara to put out the statement, letting the team break the news before anyone else.
The Giants currently own the third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, one that will potentially feature several touted quarterback prospects, including USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. The fanbase has balked at head coach Ben McAdoo’s claims that Smith, 12-18 as a starter for the New York Jets, gives the team the best chance to win on Sunday in Oakland (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX), causing many to accuse the Giants of tanking in a desperate attempt to improve their draft spot. In the current order, New York trails only 1-10 San Francisco and 0-11 Cleveland.
Mara, however, immediately shut down the idea.
“We’re still going to try to win the games. I read something somewhere about, are we going to tank the rest of the season? That’s complete (manure),” Mara said. “I would never allow that here. We’re going to try to win the games. We’re just going to have to try to do it with a different guy at quarterback.”
The owner somewhat admitted on Wednesday that he was not expecting the backlash that followed the announcement, one that many ex-Giants spoke out on. Even Mara’s own daughter, actress Kate, expressed sadness of Manning’s benching, additionally quoting a tweet of support from former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.
— Kate Mara (@katemara) November 28, 2017
John Mara did what he could to soothe the fanbase’s concerns.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that when you get to a decision like this, there’s no completely clean way to handle it,” Mara explained. “It was not the way we hoped it would turn out. I was hoping that (Manning) would continue to play and then we’d work out at what point the other quarterbacks go into the game. It just didn’t work out that way and once I heard that, I knew what was coming.”
While Mara was a little off-put by the nearly unanimous negative response the announcement generated, as fellow quarterbacks Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger likewise voiced their displeasure, he understood where the fans were coming from when defending their two-time Super Bowl champion.
“I expected there to be an emotional reaction from fans,” Mara said. I would say it’s been a little excessive maybe than what I expected. But given what he has meant to our franchise and to so many people for so long, it’s understandable.”
During his post-practice press conference, McAdoo likewise tried to quell the fan-created firestorm. He reiterated that he, Reese, and Mara were all on “the same page” when it came to this monumental choice.
“A decision like this doesn’t get made without everybody being on the same page and being aware of what’s going on,” McAdoo explained. “Like I said, it’s tough. It’s hard. No one expected us to be where we are right now, including me. I’m disappointed that we’re here, but with that being said, we got to move forward.”
John Mara addressing media in an unannounced press conference #NYG pic.twitter.com/duOiSPNnAl
— Geoff Magliocchetti (@GeoffMags5490) November 29, 2017
McAdoo also spoke of separating himself “emotionally” from the situation, remarking that he is “at peace” with this option.
“It’s obviously emotional. (There are) a lot of reactions out there, McAdoo said. “I get the reactions and I understand the emotions. I understand the responses. It’s been a tough couple days. We feel we have to put our emotions aside and make the best decision for the New York Football Giants.”
The head coach likewise confirmed that Webb, who has become a fan favorite over recent weeks, will remain the third option at quarterback. He would neither confirm nor deny that Webb would dress for the first time.
McAdoo’s future was briefly addressed by Mara on Wednesday. Giants brass, including Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch, put out a statement after the team’s November 12 loss to the 49ers indicating that McAdoo and his staff would be safe at least through the end of the regular season. On Wednesday, however, Mara was more cryptic when asked about McAdoo’s December job security.
“There’s no guarantees in life,” Mara stated. “We made our statement on that a couple of weeks ago, but there’s no guarantees in life.”
With Manning finally getting a week off, that’s certainly the case in East Rutherford.