Geno Smith will be the first quarterback to start for both New York Teams:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –For the first time in 4,748 days, the Giants will start a new quarterback in a regular-season game when they visit the Oakland Raiders Sunday.
As anyone with even a remote interest in the NFL knows, Eli Manning will be on the sideline after 222 consecutive starts, including 12 in the postseason. Geno Smith, who had a 12-18 record as a starter with the Jets, will make his starting debut with the Giants. He will become the first quarterback to start a game for both the Giants and the Jets. Smith will be the first quarterback other than Manning to start a regular-season game since Kurt Warner – now a Pro Football Hall of Famer – on Nov. 14, 2004. Manning took over the following week, in the 10th game of his rookie season, and has remained behind center ever since.
Since Manning began the Giants' starter, 188 other quarterbacks have started regular-season games for the NFL's 31 other teams. Each team has started at least three quarterbacks, and the three other NFC East teams – Dallas, Philadelphia, and Washington – have started 12, 12, and 10 quarterbacks, respectively.
But now it's Smith's turn to step in and light a fire under a Giants offense that has struggled throughout the team's 2-9 season – not a particularly surprising development, with all the injuries to the wide receivers corps and the offensive line, and the inability to establish a consistent running game.
Given the scrutiny he will be under, does Smith have a message for Giants fans?
"The one thing I'll say is that, first and foremost, nothing that number 10 (Manning) has ever done can be replaced," Smith said. "He's been the guy for this franchise for the past decade. He's meant a lot to the fans, to the community, so I don't want anything I do to ever get skewed with that, because I know it's been a different week for a lot of people, and it will be different to see me under center rather than Eli. That's something that I've been thinking about. As far as the play-wise, we're going to go out there, we're going to play hard. We're prepared for it, guys are excited and I think we're going to go play well."
The quarterback change has ignited a frenzy among Giants fans, reporters who cover the team, and social media, where, frankly, most of the reaction has been decidedly negative. Coach Ben McAdoo has received much scrutiny and many pointed questions, and team president John Mara made a rare appearance in the press room at the team headquarters.
But Smith's focus has been on football – studying the game plan, learning as much as possible about the Raiders' defense, and developing a rapport with his receivers in practice.
"When you think about it, you got to walk on the side of reality and the reality is that it's a football game," Smith said. "We're blessed we're able to play this game. I know I haven't really paid attention to it, but I know on the outside there's going to be doubters, there's going to be people who are skeptical. That just comes with the position, and I don't worry about that. Like I said, when you look at it in reality we got to go out there and play a game, and it's important that we go out there, every man goes out there, not just myself, and plays well."
Smith said his working relationship hasn't changed with Manning and rookie quarterback Davis Webb, who is expected to play during the five-game stretch run.
Smith is familiar with the Raiders. He is 2-0 against them as a starter, with victories in MetLife Stadium in 2013 and 2014. Smith made his only appearance of the 2015 season in relief in Oakland, and completed 27 of 42 passes for 265 yards two touchdowns, and an interception in a Jets loss.
"They're a tough defense," Smith said. "They got a great pass rush. They got Khalil Mack (the NFL's 2016 Defensive Player of the Year), who's probably the best in the game. And then Bruce Irvin, who's a guy I'm familiar with being that we played at West Virginia. He's also one of the better pass rushers in the game. They're going to present some problems for us, but we've practiced some solutions, so I think we'll have our hands full in that regard. Their secondary has some good, young players that can make plays. So we got to make sure that we don't allow the pass rush to be a game changer, and that I get the ball out of my hands fast so that my guys don't have to protect for five, six seconds, and then obviously the guys on the outside have to catch the ball and then make plays."