Giants’ Mara comes off as clueless in messy benching of Eli

It is unusual for a phrase to be remembered for almost a thousand years.

Yet King Henry II’s famous phrase in 1170, “Will no one get rid of this meddlesome priest?’’ hasn’t faded into the history books.

It was a pivotal scene in the 1966 movie A Man for All Seasons and was used by fired FBI director James Comey in hearings before Congress earlier this year.

Henry II was referring to Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, because they were having a dispute.

So four knights killed Becket even though Henry II later said he didn’t mean for him to be killed.

John Mara, the co-owner (or king) of the New York Giants, played the role of Henry II and coach Ben McAdoo played the role of one of the knights in the awkward benching of Eli Manning that effectively killed Manning’s Giants career.

Mara revealed at a press conference according to the New York Daily News that over a week ago he talked to general manager Jerry Reese about playing the other quarterbacks at some point during games.

“I didn’t necessarily think it had to be at the half. I think if [Manning is] playing well in the first half, we’re winning the game, it looks like we’ve got a chance, the offense is clicking, I would argue then keep him in the game. But having him definitively come out at the end of the first half, I can understand why he would object to that,” Mara said.

But that is not the way McAdoo presented it to Manning. He told Manning he would play the first half and Geno Smith would play the second. Naturally, Manning rejected that half-baked idea.

“Well, it was presented the way Ben thought it ought to be presented,” Mara said. “And could we have done it differently? I guess you argue that we could’ve, yes.”

“The point was we did not want him on the bench, we wanted him to start the game and play some portion of the game and at some point, work the other guys in,’’ Mara said.”

“I had mentioned to [Reese] a week or two ago, don’t you think it’s time to start to get a look at these other quarterbacks at some point during these games,” Mara said to start his press conference. “And he agreed, said he’d already had a conversation with Ben about that. Jerry called me on Monday afternoon, I was at a family function in Virginia, to tell me that Ben was going to be speaking to Eli to let him know that he was going to continue to start the game(s) — he was going to start the game on Sunday — but that at some point Geno would come into the game.

“Tuesday morning, Jerry called me and said that Eli had informed Ben that if you’re gonna play Geno in the second half, you may as well just start him. It’s not fair to him, it’s not fair to me,” Mara recounted. “I think that would be the best decision going forward. And he also wanted us to put out a statement announcing that. So that’s what we did.”

Mara said of meeting Manning after the move was made, “Yes, I met with him this morning, and had a good talk with him. It was a very emotional talk. And he is obviously not happy with the decision but he understands it. And I told him that, I said my hope here had been that you would continue to play, not only to keep your streak alive but because I was hoping — I didn’t want him to go out like this.

“But I understand his feeling. I respect his decision. He doesn’t want the streak to be tarnished by just getting in for a few series or something. But I was hoping that he’d come in, he’d play, he’d be playing well, we’d have a chance to win the game and maybe he’d stay in there or something. But he understands at some point we’ve got to look at the other quarterbacks because he’s not gonna play forever.”

“The timing of it could have been a little different, I wish I could have been here when that was all going down,” said Mara, who was attending the owners meetings in Manhattan, “but what I did not expect — and this is my fault, I was probably naïve — I did not expect Eli to react by saying, ‘Go ahead and start the other guys.’ ”

Mara also said he was surprised by the public outrage of the move. That was a puzzling comment. Mara is an owner attuned to the fans. He even answers their letters. And even though he’s been bashed at times by the fans, they will always remember his two fourth-quarter Super Bowl game winning drives.

‘’I expected there was going to be an emotional reaction from fans. I would say it’s been a little in excess of maybe what I had expected, but given what he has meant to our franchise and to so many people for so long, it’s understandable.”

Mara said of the outrage that it’s Smith replacing Manning and not Davis Webb: “That may be true of a few people, but I think for the most part it would have been that reaction from Eli to anybody.”

Is he ready to say Manning days as a Giant are over?

“No, I’m not,” Mara said. “I don’t think you should be writing his obituary just yet. A lot of things can change between now and next spring and next season, and we obviously have some tough decisions to make at the end of the year and who knows what’s gonna happen.”

Mara is being naïve. There is no way Manning is going to want to back to the Giants after the way he was treated and he will have other options.

Meanwhile, the Giants’ franchise – often called the league’s flagship franchise – has a lot of work to do. They face a major rebuilding job.

Mara will probably fire McAdoo and Reese at the end of the season. Firing them is the easy part. Finding good replacements will be difficult

And he needs to start communicating better with his GM and coach so they understand what he is thinking.

They also have to realize that Geno Smith isn’t the answer for the future.

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