Coughlin's call: Eli takes reins from Warner

Updated: November 15, 2004, 7:29 PM ET
Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning has replaced Kurt Warner as the New York Giants' starting quarterback.

Kurt Warner
Warner

Eli Manning
Manning

Coach Tom Coughlin made the move Monday after Warner and the offense struggled for the second consecutive week in a 17-14 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona. The Giants (5-4) have lost three of the last four games after a 4-1 start.

Manning, the top pick in this year's draft and the brother of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, will face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Giants Stadium.

"He is the future of the New York Giants, it just starts now," Coughlin said of Manning, who lost a close training camp competition with Warner for the starting job. "I really felt the last four games we haven't been playing well offensively. We just need to make a change."

Coughlin told both players on Monday. His meeting with Manning happened around 12:30 p.m.

"It's exciting," said Manning, who has seen limited mop-up action in two games. "This is something I want to do. This is what I want to do for a living. This is why I want to play football, so I can go out there and be the starting quarterback. I'm looking forward to the opportunity. Now it's time to go out there and play football."

While Warner was professional in handling the change, the demotion caught the two-time MVP off-guard.

It came a day after he completed 19 of 31 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception or fumble, but the offense also did not score after getting two early touchdowns.

"My play yesterday I don't think had anything to do with that," Warner said of the change. "Read into that as much as you want, but there is a bigger picture here. There's more things that are trying to be accomplished here, and that's why the decision was made."

Warner, who had thrown six touchdowns and four interceptions on 268 attempts, seemed to suggest the organization wanted Manning to play just to get an idea about their $46 million wonder kid.

"I don't think it's political," halfback Tiki Barber said. "We've lost three of four, something has to change. I have talked about this before, how sometimes just change for change sake makes things happen, and that's what we are looking for, some spark."

Coughlin could have considered revamping his offensive line, which has allowed 23 sacks in the last four games and 39 this season. However, his best five players are already playing.

The only recourse was a quarterback change.

Warner, signed in the offseason as a caretaker quarterback after being released by the Rams, did his best to keep Manning on the bench all season. After losing the opener, he led the Giants to four straight wins.

Turnovers by Warner in losses to Detroit and Chicago, and a ton of penalties against Arizona convinced Coughlin to switch starters.

"I'm a little surprised," receiver Amani Toomer said. "The offense is sputtering, but it's not all Kurt. He is kind of the scapegoat."

The Giants traded four draft picks, including first-rounders this year and next, to San Diego to acquire Manning on draft day. After a horrible performance in his first minicamp, Manning has impressed the coaching staff and teammates with his knowledge of the game, his poise and his arm.

"He is not your ordinary rookie," Toomer said. "He does some special things with the football."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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