BY TOM CANAVAN
The Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. – Eli Manning is going to get a chance to open the season as the New York Giants' starting quarterback.
Coach Tom Coughlin made that clear Tuesday, announcing that Manning, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, will start ahead of two-time MVP Kurt Warner in the preseason game Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.
“The decision coming in was that they were going to compete for the job,” Coughlin said. “Therefore, we are going to give both of them the opportunity to start, and this week is Eli's opportunity.”
Warner started on Friday in a 34-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Coughlin said his decision had nothing to do with that game. The new Giants coach planned all along to start Manning in the second preseason game, but he didn't bother to tell either player.
Last week, Coughlin said the race for the starting job was about even.
Manning was stretching on the practice field at the University at Albany on Tuesday morning when Coughlin told him.
The unflappable Manning responded in true fashion.
“OK,” he recalled saying.
“I didn't know what their feeling was; how they were going to go into the preseason,” Manning said of the start. “I guess they want to give me a shot to see how I do against a starting defense and see if I can manage a game well.”
Warner did not seem upset.
“The only fair way in a competitive situation like this is to give guys the same opportunity,” Warner said. “It wasn't a surprise. It wasn't disappointing. It's part of the deal I expected going in, and leave it at that.”
Warner, who won the NFL's MVP award twice in leading the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title in 1999 and an NFC championship in 2001, completed 3-of-7 passes for 49 yards against the Chiefs.
Manning, who was given a six-year, $45 million contract, was 7-of-13 for 91 yards in his first taste of NFL game action.
“I don't know if anything is going to be decided by one game, one preseason game,” Manning said of the upcoming game. “It's the accumulation of all the practices, all the preseason games, to see how my learning process is going through all this and decision making.
“I'm not trying to go out there and just throw a bunch of touchdowns and do this,” Manning added. “I'm just trying to make smart decisions. If you have a chance to throw one long, you do. If not, you try to get completions and first downs.”
Manning insisted the media would make more of his start than he would.
“I'm just trying to see where I stand and what I need to work on,” said Manning, the brother of the Colts' Peyton Manning, last year's co-MVP.
Warner, who lost his starting job to Marc Bulger last season in St. Louis, started all four preseason games with the Rams last year. He suffered a concussion in the season opener against the Giants and did not start another game.
Manning has impressed Warner.
“He is smart. He is accurate. He has the whole game,” Warner said. “He is doing a great job.”
Kerry Collins started for the Giants last season. He was released shortly after the draft after refusing to take a pay cut. Warner was signed to play quarterback until Manning was ready, but it's possible he is ready now.