NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Giants co-owner John Mara told reporters Wednesday he was caught off-guard by Eli Manning’s reaction when the quarterback was told the team wanted to play younger quarterbacks.

Mara said he was among those who wanted the Giants to evaluate Geno Smith and Davis Webb, but he was adamant that he also wanted Manning to continue to start games. Manning, however, declined, saying he didn’t want to start a game he couldn’t finish and didn’t want to tarnish his streak of 210 consecutive starts.

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Smith will open under center when the Giants (2-9) visit the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

John Mara (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Mara said he first mentioned the idea of playing Smith and Webb a week or two ago to general manager Jerry Reese, who told him that he and coach Ben McAdoo had already discussed the possibility.

While he said the situation with Manning could have probably been handled better, Mara said, “There’s no completely clean way to handle it.”

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He said he had a “very emotional” meeting with Manning on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want him to go out like this,” Mara said, but added that no one should write the QB’s obituary yet.

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Mara also said he anticipated a strong reaction from fans. However, “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,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday, McAdoo said he, too, understands the fans’ emotional reaction, but added, “I’m at peace with the decision.”

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When asked about McAdoo’s performance this season, Mara responded: “We’re 2-9. I’m embarrassed about that. Nobody is doing a good job.”