Warner gets starting nod

Tom Coughlin finally made the call. <BR><BR> "We made the decision that Kurt will start, will start the season at quarterback," he said. "It's been a very good experience, the competitive nature of this position. I wish we could say that about all positions on this team. We would certainly be a better football team for that. The advancement of Eli has been largely due to the competitive nature of this position.

And I feel like he has advanced tremendously as a rookie in this league with all the information that has been thrown at him, and the way he's handled the majority of that, so I feel good about the two quarterbacks. Kurt will start. We give Kurt the ball and say, ‘Kurt, let's go win.' "

Coughlin stated that it was an open competition from the get-go.

"Well it was very good all the way through camp," he said. "It's been a very, very close and competitive situation the whole way through camp. I think this is the best choice...it's the choice that is in the best interest of the New York Giants."

Warner was relieved and excited at the same time.

"That was goal number one coming in; to be the starter and help this team win a championship," he said. "There is still a lot of work to be done and now I just have to continue to focus on getting better, correcting the mistakes that I have been making and hone in on the responsibility and the role that comes with being the starting quarterback for the New York Giants."

Warner stated that Coughlin didn't exactly explain his reasoning for the decision.

"Not really. He just said this is the direction we are going, then laid out the plan on how he plans on proceeding in different situations," he said. "He basically told me the news and told me to take hold of it and move forward."

Coughlin said the whole process went as smoothly as could be expected.

"There's no quarterback controversy, there has never been one," Coughlin said. "There has been a quarterback competition. And that competition has proven to be a very good tool, and like I said, I wish it was like that in a lot of other positions here. I have never made a big issue about that, you know that I've stuck with what I said about allowing this to play itself out on the field. There was no preconceived agenda; I wanted to see it take place on the field and I think that has taken place and occurred. And because of the timing of the situation, it's appropriate that the decision be made right now."

Coughlin added that he was pleased with how Manning handled the news.

"Very good, very good," he said. "I mean he's not, in any way, going to accept the position. He's a competitor, that's the number one thing. He's a fighter, but he's very positive about it. He's a young man who...everything we've thrown at him he's handled very well. He didn't have a good experience the other night. I really don't think it was a setback, I think it was a learning experience. I think he is going to have circumstances come along in his career...they all do, everyone does. You know, you've got to make sure that your focus is where it needs to be, so that's a good experience for him."

Warner's teammates were just relieved that a decision had finally been made.

"I think it's good that we made a decision. Now we can start focusing on getting a leader for this offense, someone to focus in and help us win," running back Tiki Barber said. "I think it's always good to have an experienced guy in there. He's been through some of those (game situation) things. He understands the speed and the pressures of this game and can adjust accordingly. We're happy with the decision and we're happy to move forward."

Defensive end Michael Strahan said ending the speculation about the quarterback now will help the offense.

"It's big," Strahan said. "It's really big because guys can get comfortable with who they are going to go out there and play with. Kurt can get comfortable under the center knowing that, 'Hey, this is my offense to lead right now' not, 'I don't know, maybe we'll see by the first game'. I think sometimes when it goes to that extent it makes for some undue stress and undue uncertainty. So I feel good that he was named right now because it gives him a chance to get himself ready."

It's easy to understand why the players feel comfortable with Warner. He is, after all, a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player who has played in two Super Bowls. He has a winning percentage of .700 (35-15) as an NFL starter, and his passer rating of 97.2 is the best in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 passes.

"Kurt's a two-time MVP," wide receiver Ike Hilliard said. "He's done anything and everything that you can think of from the quarterback position. Just having him in the huddle and on the team, along with the little things that he can bring to the table, means a lot."

"You can tell when he steps up to the line, he's confident," running back Ron Dayne said. "He can call the guys out. At first it was a little shaky, because he didn't know the offense that well. But that went for everybody. Once he got used to everything, it was a lot easier for him."

The Giants face a daunting challenge in their opener, when they will face the Eagles, their NFC East rivals who have played in the last three conference championship games. Manning has tremendous talent, but playing his first game as a starter in Lincoln Financial Field would have been a rough way to start a career.

In Warner, the Giants will take the field with a quarterback who has played and won in hostile NFL environments.

"He's won a Super Bowl, so he knows what it takes to get there," Barber said. "You just feel a veteran presence out of him. It's nothing against Eli, because their competition was very heated and something that I think made both of them better. It's a good thing this decision is made. We have two weeks to prepare with the starting quarterback going into Philadelphia."

"He is accurate," Strahan said of Warner. "Just watching him throw the ball, he is very accurate. Kurt, actually, has been getting out of the pocket, avoiding the rush pretty well and putting the ball where it needs to be. He showed me that just the other night against the Jets. He can be a guy that helps us win games."

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