The worst ending to an iconic Giants career would be Eli Manning resembling a bloodied Y.A. Tittle on his knees following the next sack, or the one after that, or the one after that.
What awaits Manning now is the lesser of two evils:
His dream job being taken from him.
And not just for one game this time.
You might remember that the previous regime, with assistance from John Mara, gave us a reminder of The Fumble back in 1978 when Ben McAdoo presented his half-baked idea that Manning rejected and everyone signed off thinking that ending Manning’s Ironman streak on Dec. 3 in Oakland to get a look at … Geno Smith … was a good idea.
Now here we are again.
Only the 36-year-old quarterback is now the 37-year-old quarterback.
The record when Manning was benched a year ago: 2-9.
The record now: 1-7.
Wellington Mara cried when then-GM George Young and head coach Dan Reeves shocked Phil Simms when they made him a salary-cap victim in June 1994.
And son John might shed a tear should it unfold that Manning is released after this season and decides to continue playing and does not therefore retire a Giant.
Because of his emotional attachment to his Hall of Fame quarterback, Mara should mimic his Hall of Fame father and step aside and let the football men make the cold, cruel football decision.
Shurmur, who has no Giants attachment to Manning, and Gettleman, who does, must do what is in the best interest of the team, now and in the future.
Such as getting the kind of look at rookie Kyle Lauletta that they never got at Davis Webb.
Shurmur was less definitive than he has been when asked Monday if Manning would be his quarterback in San Francisco following the bye.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Yeah, I think Eli is our quarterback; but I did say, and again, I know you’re all trying to tease a headline out. At this point, Eli is our quarterback, and we are looking at all areas to improve. That’s where it’s at.”
This is what is called a lukewarm endorsement.
Do they ask a rookie to make his debut on “Monday Night Football,” even against a 49ers team that could not beat the Cardinals? Unlikely. The earliest to make a switch would be Nov. 18 against the Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium as long as Lauletta shows he is a quick study. A last stand by Manning in San Francisco could possibly delay the inevitable.
This won’t be Manning replacing Kurt Warner after nine games as a rookie in 2004. Manning was the apple of the organization’s eye when Tom Coughlin decided to begin an era he believed would last a decade or more. Warner was a caretaker. Lauletta is a fourth-round draft pick with strong instincts and a less-than-strong arm.
No matter how it plays out, Manning should get to make one last start in the regular-season finale against the Cowboys at MetLife. One and only one vote, one last vote, for nostalgia. One last tribute for the greatest quarterback in Giants history.
Manning was standing at his locker, facing the music the way he has faced it every Monday across 15 seasons, proudly wearing his hooded gray sweatshirt with GIANTS in blue across his chest, and blue shorts.
The music playing in his head used to be “We Are The Champions,” and now it undoubtedly sounds more like “Auld Lang Syne,” and no one who has witnessed how a star in this town should conduct himself revels in hearing it.
There was no need for an inquisition, only a five-minute session during which Manning said: “I expect and want to be the starting quarterback until I’m told differently.”
He will be the good soldier when he is told differently: “I’ve always been a team player, and do kinda what I’m told,” he said.
This isn’t only Eli Manning’s fault. There are plenty of other culprits. But it is the job of the quarterback to score points and win games.
And the Manning Giants no longer score enough, and they no longer win enough.
He won’t get to go out on his own terms. Not everyone gets to ride off into the sunset like John Elway did. Manning deserves better treatment than he received from the previous regime. He deserves the best ending possible from the new regime. If there is one.