The coach announced today that Manning, the first pick of this year's NFL Draft, will replace Warner as the Giants' starting quarterback, beginning Sunday at home against the 7-2 Atlanta Falcons.
"This decision really is not about Kurt Warner, it is about the New York Giants," Coughlin said. "It is about moving forward. It is about the fact that really, three of the last four games I have not been pleased with our offensive performance. I think we just need to make this change."
Perhaps there is a favorable omen in Coughlin's decision. Rookie starting quarterbacks are 10-0 in the NFL this season. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger has won all seven of his starts, while Chicago's Craig Krenzel is 3-0, including a victory over the Giants.
"I'm looking forward to my opportunity to start," said Manning, who will face two first-place teams in the Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles in his first two starts, both at home. "I knew when they brought in Kurt Warner we were going to compete for the starting job. Obviously, he won it. Now I'm going to be given my chance and I'm going to prepare hard and play the best I can and hopefully get a win."
Warner took the news with his characteristic grace. Surrounded by reporters at his locker, he said several times that he will continue to do everything he can to help the Giants win and to help Manning.
"I never expected it, but I'm obviously disappointed," he said. "I want to be out there playing, I want to be competing. This is the decision that he has made, that the organization has made. They've gotten everything that I've got to give since the first day I signed here and they'll get it until I'm not here anymore – it doesn't really matter, the capacity. They know what they're going to get and I'm going to do whatever I can to continue to help this team win, to help Eli be successful."
The decision was not the organization's, but Coughlin's alone. Although some outsiders have suggested that the ownership and management have pressured Coughlin to play Manning – a high-price top draft choice who could mollify a restless fan base – nothing could be further from the truth.
"I don't think Tom Coughlin would work for an organization that made player decisions for him," co-CEO Wellington Mara said.
Manning, of course, was the headline acquisition in an offseason of change at Giants Stadium. He was obtained in a blockbuster draft-day trade with San Diego Chargers in which the Giants sent quarterback Philip Rivers, their third-round pick in this year's draft and their first- and fifth-round choices in next year's draft to the Chargers.
Manning has appeared in just two regular season games. He entered the season-opener in Philadelphia and on his first play, handed off to Tiki Barber, who scored on a 72-yard run. Manning completed three of nine passes for 66 yards and he absorbed a brutal blindside hit from Jerome McDougle the one time he was sacked. Two of his completions were on third down, and his third was a 29-yarder to Tim Carter on fourth-and-10.
At the University of Mississippi, Manning was 24-13 as the starting quarterback. In his first college start, as a sophomore in 2001, he completed 20 of 23 passes for 271 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-14 victory over Murray State. Manning will be the first rookie to start at quarterback for the Giants since Kent Graham in 1992. Graham started three games that season after both Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler suffered injuries.
"We need a change," Manning said. "We started off playing well. This decision is not based on Kurt not playing well. He's been making good decisions and playing well. I think we just need a change to get us jump-started."
Manning gets the nod
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