EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Eli Manning’s exile to the bench is over.
Giants interim coach Steve Spagnuolo officially announced Wednesday that Manning will indeed be the team’s starter again when it hosts the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Coach Ben McAdoo, who was fired Monday, started Geno Smith last week over Manning, ending the two-time Super Bowl MVP’s consecutive starts streak at 210 — second longest in NFL history. Manning was offered the opportunity to extend the streak before giving way to Smith or rookie Davis Webb, but Manning declined, saying he didn’t want to start a game he couldn’t finish or tarnish his streak.
Team co-owner John Mara insisted Monday that McAdoo’s handling of the benching was not a factor in his dismissal.
In his first news conference since taking over the team, Spagnuolo said he told Mara: “My gut right now is that Eli should be the starter.” But Spagnuolo, the Giants’ defensive coordinator, said he conferred with the offensive coaches before finalizing the decision.
Manning was relieved to be back in the starting lineup.
“This is all I know, playing for the New York Giants,” he said. “I never want to change that.”
Spagnuolo said Smith was disappointed he was headed back to the bench but has handled the news well. Smith was 21-of-34 for 212 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Raiders. He, however, lost two fumbles.
“I have a great deal of respect for Geno Smith in the way he reacted,” Spagnuolo said. “He was a man. He obviously didn’t agree with the decision, but he is a team player, and he told me he was going to go forward and wants to be a part of this.”
Said Smith: “I had a great opportunity to play on Sunday with my teammates, and we fought hard. … I’m thankful for that opportunity.”
Spagnuolo started his news conference by praising McAdoo.
“It’s been a rough 60 hours since we left Oakland,” Spagnuolo said. “Needless to say, it’s been real emotional. Everybody’s kind of felt it. The first thing I want to say or convey is how much respect I have for Ben and what he did here as the head football coach. I feel personally (I’m) one of the guys that let him down. We failed as a team, but part of that failure was me, so it’s really hard for me to stand here in the position I’m in right now.
“And I want to publicly thank Ben for, two years ago, sticking with me as the defensive coordinator here. I greatly appreciated that. He’s a great man. He’s a great coach. He’ll be a head coach again in this league, in my opinion, and a really good one.”