Ben McAdoo 'at peace' with Eli Manning benching that got him fired as Giants coach, admits 'my bedside manner hurt me that week'

Ben McAdoo finally has addressed the one topic people were waiting to hear him talk about: the benching of Eli Manning for Geno Smith that got him fired after 29 games as Giants head coach.

McAdoo wrote in the “What I Learned” section of Peter King’s debut Monday morning column that he is “at peace” with the decision he made to look at other quarterbacks in preparation for the draft, hoping “to make the Giants stronger for the future.” But he also acknowledged that “my bedside manner hurt me that week” and that Manning’s benching “probably got me fired.”

No need for the word “probably,” of course, but it’s noteworthy to hear McAdoo say it.

“I learned there’s no easy way to make the truly tough decisions,” McAdoo wrote in King’s column. “Right or wrong, I am at peace with how I handled the decision to play quarterbacks other than Eli Manning down the stretch of last season. At the time, we were 2-9, beat up, and I told Eli we wanted to see the other quarterbacks on the roster — including our promising rookie, Davis Webb.

“I was not ending Eli’s career with the Giants; I was making sure we knew what we had behind him with a high draft choice prior to a big quarterback draft,” McAdoo added. “I gave him the option to start the games to keep his streak alive. I understand why he said no, and he was a true pro about it. My bedside manner hurt me that week. I’m working on that.”

McAdoo made a lot of these same points in his initial announcement of Manning’s benching back on Nov. 28, 2017, though at that time he also stressed that the team’s “number one job” still was “to win a football game.” And his insinuation that Smith could do that better than Manning struck a major nerve among Giants fans, even though Smith was more capable in the Week 12 game in Oakland than Manning had been the previous week in Washington.

McAdoo’s acknowledgement in King’s column of his poor “bedside manner” as a factor — presumably referring both to his dealings inside the organization and with the media that week — was a valid observation. But it’s interesting that he did not mention Smith’s name at any point in the passage.

Oddly, McAdoo even went on to admire the fan reaction that contributed to his swift dismissal.

“I do think it was special how his former teammates and the fans rallied around him that week,” McAdoo said of Manning. “But if there’s one thing I want fans of the Giants to know, it’s that I made this call to try to make the Giants stronger for the future. It probably got me fired, but I believe I did the right thing for the right reasons.”

The unforgettable controversy, of course, began with a Nov. 28 team press release announcing that Geno Smith would start Dec. 3 in Oakland. And it concluded with McAdoo’s and GM Jerry Reese’s prompt firings on Dec. 4.

Co-owner John Mara had signed off on McAdoo’s initial plan, in which he would start Manning in Oakland to keep his streak alive but bring Smith into the game eventually. But after Manning refused to play and cried at his locker — and McAdoo failed to handle the situation well publicly and the outrage of fans and former teammates boiled over — Mara and the Giants reversed course, reinstalled Manning as the starter for the rest of the season and never accomplished the one unquestionably sensible part of McAdoo’s plan: to play Webb in games with an eye on April’s draft.

So the Giants ended up making the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft without ever seeing Webb take a single regular-season snap. They passed on a QB, of course, and took Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, whom they hope will help revitalize Manning’s career and the Giants’ fortunes.

McAdoo wasn’t just thinking about Webb, though. Remember that. He strongly believed in Smith’s abilities, too.

Smith told the Daily News in March that when McAdoo was fired, they talked before he left the building and McAdoo “told me he felt like I deserved to play the rest of the season.”

And so it was that while McAdoo “was not ending Eli’s career with the Giants,” the Giants ended up ending his.