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Strahan on Eli Manning not starting: It's 'just not right'

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The outcry over Eli Manning's unceremonious demotion reaches far across the football universe. From current teammates (Justin Pugh) to former coaches (Tom Coughlin) to the man Manning replaced way back in 2004 (Kurt Warner), the NFL community at large has rebuked the New York Giants' decision to "bench" their franchise quarterback of a decade-plus.

Add to that ever-growing list a man who shared his career pinnacle with Manning -- literally sharing the Super Bowl stage with him -- and two quarterbacks who came into the league with Eli, and now fear soon going out with him.

Retired Giants defensive end, Pro Football Hall of Famer and television morning host spectacular Michael Strahan expressed disappointment over how his former teammate has been treated by his former team this week.

"Here's a guy who's been the epitome of this organization, class of this organization, for so many years -- 14 seasons," Strahan explained to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo at NFL Experience Times Square. "And with four games to go that aren't going to change the season one way or another ... this is just not right. I don't think there's any player -- current or former -- who think this is right."

Manning won Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl XLII when Strahan led Big Blue's defense to an upset over the previously perfect New England Patriots, preventing the 19-0 season and writing the '07 Giants into football lore. Strahan's career ended on the postgame stage as he raised the Lombardi alongside Manning. Eli's career in New York will likely have no such fairy tale ending.

In Pittsburgh, Manning's draftmate Ben Roethlisberger saw in his contemporary's benching a potential sign of gloomy things to come.

"It sparks the reality that that could be me," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday. "They could do that to me next year or whenever, who knows?

"It's eye-opening that you have to take every play, every game, don't take it for granted, take it for what it is because you never know when you're done."

Manning, Roethlisberger and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers make up an esteemed trio of franchise QBs taken in the top 10 of the 2004 draft.

Unlike Big Ben, Rivers, the second of the troika selected, did not mince his words regarding Manning, calling the benching "pathetic."

"The guy, he's been out there 210 straight games with no telling how many bumps, bruises and injuries for his team," Rivers said Wednesday. "He won two Super Bowl MVPs, and the respect he's had in the locker room over the years, and really the respect he's gained throughout the league, you just feel like the guy has earned an opportunity. If they are in fact deciding to go another direction, I feel like he's earned the opportunity to finish it off these last five weeks."

Roethlisberger and Rivers, both 35 years old, are a year younger than Manning in age, but not in football years. All three have been perennial postseason contenders throughout their 15-year careers. But while Big Ben and Rivers have escaped talk of their own benchings this season, as Pittsburgh and Los Angeles embark on postseason runs, Manning was not so lucky.

Perhaps, Eli will get the send-off he deserves, as Strahan did, but if this week's events have taught us -- the viewers and fans -- and Manning's fellow franchise players anything, it's that no one in football is immune from Father Time and his bureaucratic nonsense.

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