Eli Manning, the top overall choice in the NFL draft in April, will get his first regular season start Sunday for the New York Giants, Coach Tom Coughlin announced yesterday.
With the Giants struggling, Manning will replace veteran Kurt Warner against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Giants Stadium.
"He is the future of the New York Giants," Coughlin said during a news conference yesterday afternoon. "It just starts now. . . . I just deal with what I think is right for our team."
Warner was sacked six times in a 17-14 loss Sunday at Arizona that dropped the Giants to 5-4. They have lost two straight games and are 1-3 since their 4-1 start.
The Giants squandered a 14-3 lead Sunday with a sloppy performance that included 10 penalties. Warner completed 19 of 30 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown, and didn't throw an interception. He has thrown only four interceptions this season. But he is having trouble under pass-rush pressure, and Coughlin decided to turn to the player the Giants regarded as a once-in-a-generation prospect when they traded for him on draft day.
"This decision really is not about Kurt Warner," Coughlin said. "It's about the New York Giants. It's about moving forward. It's about in three of the last four games, I haven't been pleased with our offensive performance. I just feel we needed to make this change. . . . I just think there's an opportunity for Eli to gain the experience factor and bring what he brings, the downfield [passing] capability for us. . . . I feel like he certainly is ready to take this role. . . . Kurt is a competitor. He's a fighter. He's not happy, but he's a class guy."
Manning must try to catch up to a couple of other quarterbacks who were drafted behind him. Ben Roethlisberger, who was drafted 10 spots beneath him, has won his first seven starts for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Craig Krenzel, the Chicago Bears' fifth-round pick, has won his first three starts.
The Giants host the NFC's two top teams, the Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, the next two weekends. Then they go up against punishing defenses in road games at Washington and Baltimore the two weeks after that. Manning could face Roethlisberger when the Steelers visit Giants Stadium on Dec. 18 and could square off with last year's top overall draft pick, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, when the Giants play at Cincinnati on Dec. 26.
Bears' Urlacher Out 4 to 6 Weeks
The Chicago Bears will be without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher for four to six weeks because of a lower-leg injury suffered during Sunday's overtime victory at Tennessee, Coach Lovie Smith announced. Urlacher suffered internal bleeding and underwent surgery yesterday, according to Smith. Urlacher missed two games this season because of a strained hamstring. He is to be replaced by Hunter Hillenmeyer, while Joe Odom moves into Hillenmeyer's outside linebacker spot. . . .
Miami's interim coach, Jim Bates, named A.J. Feeley to start at quarterback, ahead of Jay Fiedler, on Sunday at Seattle. Fiedler lost a strong supporter when coach Dave Wannstedt resigned last week. . . .
Minnesota wide receiver Randy Moss likely will miss a third straight game when the Vikings host Detroit on Sunday, according to Coach Mike Tice. Tice said he believes that Moss, who is sidelined by a partially torn hamstring muscle, should be ready to face Jacksonville on Nov. 28. . . .
The San Diego Chargers named longtime NFL executive Jim Steeg their executive vice president and chief operating officer. . . .
Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme broke a bone in his right thumb, linebacker Dan Morgan suffered another concussion and kicker John Kasay strained his calf Sunday against San Francisco. Morgan is the only player definitely out this week. Kasay's status is up in the air, while Panthers Coach John Fox said Delhomme will play against Arizona on Sunday.