Ben McAdoo is going to be remembered in New York for one thing: benching Eli Manning.
McAdoo came and went as New York Giants coach about as fast as you can in the NFL. It’s pretty incredible when you consider he went 11-5 his first season. His second season unraveled in a hurry, and nothing summed up the debacle more than the clumsy way in which Manning was benched, ending his consecutive starts streak. It was such an insult to a two-time champion quarterback, the Giants’ offseason was practically an apology to Manning for it.
And yet, McAdoo still defended the decision in Peter King’s first column for NBC.
Why did McAdoo bench Manning?
King, who covered the NFL for decades at Sports Illustrated, moved on to NBC and published his first column there Monday morning. The most interesting section might be a first-person account from McAdoo about what he learned after being fired.
McAdoo talked about not managing his players as people well enough, particularly with Odell Beckham, and not handling the media responsibilities of the job better. Then he got to the subject everyone will ask him about forever.
“Right or wrong, I am at peace with how I handled the decision to play quarterbacks other than Eli Manning down the stretch of last season,” McAdoo said.
Let’s go with “wrong” on that one, Ben.
McAdoo said he wanted to get a look at the other young quarterbacks on the roster, including 2017 rookie Davis Webb, before the end of a lost season.
“I was not ending Eli’s career with the Giants; I was making sure we knew what we had behind him with a high draft choice prior to a big quarterback draft,” McAdoo said.
Here’s the problem: Manning’s streak ended with Geno Smith starting and playing the whole game. There was absolutely no mystery with Smith at that point. If McAdoo benched Manning for Webb, it’s unpopular but somewhat justifiable. Benching Manning for Smith, and never getting a look at Webb, was coaching malpractice. Webb, a third-round pick, never played a snap last season. This year, the Giants spent a fourth-round pick on quarterback Kyle Lauletta.
McAdoo threw away his professional reputation to get Geno Smith a start.
What has been the fallout for McAdoo?
Even if the thought process was right — the Giants really did need to see what Webb could do before using the second pick of the draft, even though they screwed that up — McAdoo handled it terribly. He said his “bedside manner” hurt him, and he’s working on that.
“I do think it was special how his former teammates and the fans rallied around him that week,” McAdoo wrote in King’s column. “But if there’s one thing I want fans of the Giants to know, it’s that I made this call to try to make the Giants stronger for the future. It probably got me fired, but I believe I did the right thing for the right reasons.”
That’s not how the story will be told. McAdoo will be a curse word in New York football circles, like Ray Handley or Rich Kotite. It’s one thing to lose, but it was another to disrespect a Giants legend like Manning. He made one of the most unpopular coaching decisions in Giants history and still never got a look at the third-round rookie he said he wanted to give some playing time to. That’s incredible.
McAdoo is sitting out this season, then could resurface in 2019. It probably won’t be as a head coach right away after what went down last season, but he was a respected offensive coordinator before being promoted to the head-coaching job by the Giants. Even if he has learned from some mistakes, his reputation — especially in New York — is probably set forever.
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