Warner nudges out Manning as Giants' starter
Updated: Sunday August 29, 2004 6:24PM
Briefly citing Warner's experience and recent play, head coach Tom Coughlin announced on Sunday that the two-time MVP had beaten out the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft for the starting job in the season opener at Philadelphia on Sept. 12.
"We give Kurt the ball and say, 'Kurt, let's go win,' " Coughlin said, ending a competition that has dominated headlines since training camp started.
The choice wasn't surprising in the wake of Friday's 17-10 loss to the Jets. Warner played well and Manning did not during his worst day on the field since signing a $45 million contract in late July.
Warner hit 9-of-11 passes for 104 yards, leading the Giants to their only touchdown against the Jets.
Manning was 4-of-14 for 20 yards, with two interceptions and a fumble that was returned for a Jets touchdown.
"I wasn't upset by it," Manning said of the decision that puts him in a backup role for the first time since his redshirt freshman year at Ole Miss in 2000, when Romaro Miller started. "I figured it might come. It doesn't change anything. I still have a lot to learn."
That's why the Giants signed the 33-year-Warner in June after he was released by the St. Louis Rams. It was expected that he would be the caretaker quarterback until Manning, the brother of co-MVP Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, was ready to take over.
Eli Manning's exceptional play in training camp made Coughlin's decision more difficult than anyone might have expected.
"The advancement of Eli has been largely due to the competitive nature of this position," Coughlin said. "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."
Warner said the competition was nerve-racking at times.
"It was a distinct challenge for me, a new challenge for me and I think it helped to push and force me to learn this stuff at a little faster pace," said Warner, who lost his starting job with the Rams to Marc Bulger after one game last season.
Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan said he felt Warner's experience might have been the deciding factor.
"Eli is still a young quarterback, still a rookie, and still has a lot to learn," Strahan said. "When we went into it, everybody assumed that Kurt was going to start with Eli getting the opportunity later on."
The offense was pleased just to have a decision. It will give Warner two weeks to get ready for the Eagles.
"You can feel a veteran presence out of him," halfback Tiki Barber said of Warner. "It's nothing against Eli. It was a competition. It was very heated. I think it made both of them better."
When Manning does get on the field, tackle Luke Petitgout said the Giants won't miss a beat.
"I think it's a good course to take with him," Petitgout said. "Let him learn, watch and get the feeling of being in the NFL for a while and come in and take over, eventually."
The only question now is when that will happen, and how much patience Coughlin will have if Warner has a bad game this season.
After seven seasons, Warner knows a quarterback controversy will be inevitable if the Giants lose a couple in a row.
Even if Coughlin stands firm, New York fans won't hesitate to call for Manning after enduring a 4-12 record last season under Jim Fassel.
"I am going in thinking I am going to try to win every game and play as well as I possibly can and play to the level I can," said Warner, who was the Super Bowl MVP in 1999. "I am not worried about it."
At least for now.