*QB Eli Manning showed support for this teammates despite sitting out Sunday's game: *
OAKLAND – Late Sunday afternoon, Geno Smith sat on a stool in the Giants' cramped locker room in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and vented his frustration at not being able to lead the team to victory in his first game as the starting quarterback.
One of his teammates quickly patted his leg in an unmistakable show of support and encouragement.
What else would you expect from Eli Manning?
The 14-year veteran had just had his starting streak of 210 consecutive regular-season starts end in the Giants' 24-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders. He was the only Giants player in uniform who never stepped on the field. But Manning spent the game doing whatever he could to help Smith. And afterward in the locker room, he did what few players in his position would do when he stood in front of his locker and spoke to the media with his characteristic candor and dignity.
"I want to be out there, I want to be playing, but this is the situation that we're in," Manning said. "(We're) 2-9 (now 2-10) and they want to take a look at other guys. I understand it. I'm not mad at anybody. When you're in this situation, whatever happens, there's a reason and you have to accept it."
Coach Ben McAdoo offered Manning the option of playing the first half to keep his streak alive. Smith and perhaps rookie Davis Webb would come on in the second half. But Manning believed that was not the proper way to proceed, and declined. He was asked Sunday if anything could have been done to make him feel differently.
"No," he said. "I don't blame anybody for the way that it was handled. I think coach McAdoo tried to do something right by me by saying, 'Hey, we're going to let you play. But just knowing that I was going to come out of the game, I couldn't play that way. I appreciated it and I thought he was trying to do me a favor, but it's just not the way I could go into a game knowing I'd be pulled out. So I appreciated them giving me that option. I think he understood also, when I said I couldn't do it that way."
Both McAdoo and Smith praised Manning's contributions during the game.
"Eli was into the ballgame," McAdoo said. "He did a great job as the number two being a sounding board for Geno and (offensive coordinator) Mike Sullivan over there. He was doing everything that he could do as the number two to help us win the ballgame."
"Eli does a tremendous job with that throughout the week and throughout the game," Smith said. "We were talking. We always converse back and forth. He did a great job with that today."
Though he wouldn't be throwing passes, Manning would not change one part of his game-day routine – he would do whatever possible to help the Giants win.
"I knew that once it got to today, I would be a good teammate," he said. "I'd try to support all of the guys, be ready to play if I was called upon and support Geno, support the offensive guys, do what I had to do. If I saw something they needed, tell them."
He continued to be an encouraging teammate following the game, in part because he was inspired by so many players who had once been in uniform with him.
"I think the amount of people that reached out to me this week, the importance of being a good teammate really hit home. Just the fact that all of the old teammates that have reached out to me. I've called a few out, I appreciate their support, I appreciate the things they say and it's helped me get through these past couple of days, these tough days. But it kind of reminded me that I have to be a good teammate to everybody here and do my part."
The Giants players have been supportive of Smith since McAdoo announced the quarterback change last Tuesday. But they have also repeated how much respect they have for Manning.
"I just told him, I'd follow him through heaven or hell," said long-snapper Zak DeOssie, perhaps Manning's closest friend on the team. "I've been there. Coaching decisions are above our pay grade. It is what it is. At the end of the day, we're players and coaches get paid to coach. It's the business we're in. We don't have the luxury to dwell on it."
The Giants have four games remaining. Manning might remain a spectator in all of them, particularly with the team eager to give Webb a shot. But Manning, who will turn 37 in one month, is not yet prepared to contemplate his future.
"There is no point," Manning said. "Can't control what's going to happen. We have four games left, finish out this season in whatever capacity they need me to do, and go from there."