You have to start with the Giants, who now allow themselves to look like a rinky-dink rodeo by allowing a coach -- Ben McAdoo -- they will certainly fire after the season to essentially fire Eli Manning, as important a New York Giant as there has ever been, and that includes Frank Gifford or Lawrence Taylor or Phil Simms or anyone all the way back to 1925 when they opened for business.
Who knows, maybe the Giants are going to play Geno Smith and eventually a rookie named Davis Webb the rest of the way as a way of tanking their way to a shot at drafting Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen, and hoping one of them turns into Carson Wentz or Jared Goff, the first two picks of the 2016 NFL Draft. But that does not excuse their shabby treatment of Eli, who not only won them two Super Bowls -- over Belichick and Brady, one time when Belichick and Brady were 18-0 -- but who mattered as much as the face and classy voice of the organization the way Derek Jeter did for the Yankees.
Even when Jeter was in decline, and that means clearly in decline, the Yankees allowed him to finish out his career at shortstop with the dignity he had earned. Now McAdoo, who will someday be nothing more than a footnote in Giants history, is allowed to effectively end Manning's career with the team. Maybe McAdoo thinks that Eli is the one who decided to bring back one of the worst offensive lines in football for the '17 season. Maybe it's Eli's fault that Odell Beckham Jr. played four games this season before being lost to Eli, and the Giants, for good.
I have been saying for a while that I hope Eli ends up in Denver next season, and maybe wins a Super Bowl for John Elway and the Broncos at the end of his career the way his brother Peyton did. Once the Manning brothers won Super Bowl MVP awards in consecutive years. Maybe now they can both win Super Bowls for the same team, after leaving their original teams. Maybe Eli can do something theatrical like that on his way to the Hall of Fame. And so you know, if Manning isn't a Hall of Famer, they should consider turning the place in Canton into a hair salon.
Maybe Eli can go play for the Jaguars, now that his old coach Tom Coughlin is running things in Jacksonville, where Coughlin once began his coaching career. The Jaguars are winning this season even though they are clearly scared to death to let Blake Bortles throw the ball around. You can see a scenario where Eli goes there, backed by that defense and handing off the ball to Leonard Fournette, and gives himself a chance to win his third Super Bowl.
But the two he won with the Giants, and the couple of hundred consecutive games he started for them, earned him nothing at the end, even though he is nowhere near the end of his career, and clearly so much better than his circumstances. All those two Lombardi Trophies got him was McAdoo saying he was looking to the future. Only this guy didn't mean his Giants future. Just his own.
This is McAdoo's own clumsy way of saying that the Giants' 2-9 record was somebody else's fault. The so-called offensive guru, who hasn't done very much guru-ing this season, simply presided over the most limited offense in the history of the New York Giants, who have mostly looked like the New York Browns this season, despite winning a couple of games.
But you know what else we discover this week with the benching of Eli Manning, whether they steal a couple of games or not down the stretch? How often things end badly for star quarterbacks, whether they have been legends of the game or legends of their teams, or both.
Ernie Accorsi, who made the draft-day trade that got Eli Manning to the Giants in the first place, a deal that was as big as any in New York sports since the Yankees got Babe Ruth out of Boston because of the way it changed modern Giants history, has always told about the day when he was working for the Colts and found out that Joe Thomas, running the team then, had traded away John Unitas, Ernie's boyhood hero.
"I had to walk out of the office," Ernie told me one time, "just so he couldn't see the hurt on my face."
Unitas was the quarterback who did as much as anybody to make pro football a big deal in this country, mostly because he and the Baltimore Colts won what was the most famous game in pro football history until Joe Namath later upset those same Colts in Super Bowl III: The Colts beating the Giants at Yankee Stadium in a sudden-death championship game in 1958.
That game, Unitas handing the ball off to Alan Ameche for the winning score, changed pro football history. Then Namath, who for a time felt like the Ali of pro football because he had guaranteed that the Jets would beat the Colts in that Super Bowl in Miami, came along and changed it again. And Namath did not end his career with the New York Jets. He ended it limping around for the Los Angeles Rams.
And Brett Favre played for the Jets after he left the Packers, and then for the Vikings after that. And Joe Montana, who was 4-0 in Super Bowls for the 49ers, with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions in those games, got shoved aside for Steve Young in San Francisco, and finished his career with the Chiefs, whom he might have taken to a Super Bowl if he hadn't gotten concussed in a playoff game in Buffalo.
Peyton got hurt and the Colts -- amazing how so much of this quarterbacking history runs through the Colts, isn't it? -- turned the page with Andrew Luck, and Peyton ended up in Denver. It just ended much better for Peyton with the Colts than it is ending for his brother in New Jersey. Even Phil Simms, the best quarterback in Giants history before Eli came along, finally got shown the door in Jersey, and nearly finished his career with the Cleveland Browns.
"In the end," Phil told me once, "I just couldn't do it."
So he retired as a Giant. Eli likely won't. There is all this talk that he could come back and play there next year. You wonder how that can happen, especially if you watched the hurt on his own face, the kind Accorsi described when the Colts cut loose Unitas, as Eli stood there in front of his locker Tuesday and talked about being benched. So this ends badly for him, the way it has ended badly for a lot of big guys, immortal guys, who played the position before him.
"I think a lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have done a lot for a lot of teams haven't been able to choose the way that they get to move on," McAdoo said.
Only good call this guy made all season.