All aboard the Geno Coaster, New York Giants fans, as head coach Ben McAdoo made the decision to release veteran journeyman Josh Johnson and make Geno Smith the No. 1 backup to Eli Manning.
The cut-down deadline, where teams must shed its rosters from 90 players to 53, is 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. And while most teams got a head start yesterday and early this morning, there’s still plenty of lopping off to do.
The Giants weren’t necessarily happy with either backup quarterback’s play during the preseason, with differing reasons. Smith was prone to turnovers, which has been his modus operandi during his tumultuous career, while Johnson’s inability to move the chains and generate offense likely sealed his fate. In addition to his interceptions, Smith also fumbled twice in a single practice, which resulted in offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan sending the butter-fingered Smith on a punishment lap, and he also threw a pick in practice leading up to the final preseason game.
Rookie fourth rounder Davis Webb was never really a serious contender to be Manning’s primary wingman, which meant one of the two veterans had to go. There was no way the Giants were going to keep four quarterbacks on the active roster. Now, they can “redshirt” Webb and let him develop while running the scout team in practices.
Smith likely earned the gig following his impressive showing in the preseason finale at New England, where he went 10-of-11 for 111 yards and a touchdown in a more-thrilling-than-expected 40-38 win. Second-year kicker Aldrick Rosas, who won the starting job, nailed a walk-off 48-yard field goal for the win.
Johnson was also efficient, going 11-of-14 for 135 yards and a touchdown, but for McAdoo and his staff, it was too little too late. The race was pretty even and it wasn’t a slam dunk that Smith would win. The former second-round pick of the New York Jets completed 36-of-54 passes (66.7 percent) for 355 yards, with a touchdown, and two interceptions in the preseason, while Johnson, who’s played on nine different teams, went 22-of-34 (64.7 percent) for 239 yards, with a touchdown, and no interceptions. Johnson spent last season as Manning’s primary backup, was more familiar with the playbook, and did a better job of preventing turnovers, but he hasn’t started a game since 2011 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ultimately, Smith’s pedigree and experience as a starter won out. Giants’ fans can only hope McAdoo made the right choice – or even better, Big Blue backers will hope Manning can keep that active Iron Man streak (211 consecutive starts, including the postseason) going for a long time.