At the time I was born, I had my two parents (obviously), 2 brothers, 8 pairs of uncles and aunts, and 7 cousins. I was the only one born outside of Long Island, New York. After me, another 13 cousins were born, all in New York as well. I was born in Virginia, half a dozen years or so after my family moved to the outskirts of Washington, D.C. for work. I’ve been here in Northern Virginia my entire life. Even though I was not born there, I was raised a NY boy when it came to sports. I was never interested in hockey and didn’t get into basketball until more recently, but the Yankees and Giants were all I knew.
It was a childhood that was paralleled with two of New York’s greatest and most prominent athletes: Derek Jeter and Eli Manning. I was spoiled. I was a fan of two of the most stable and historic franchises in sports history. I witnessed one of the most historic runs in baseball history when the Yankees won 4 World Series’ in 5 years and narrowly losing in the 6th year thanks to Luis Gonz.. I can’t even say his name. Derek Jeter became the epitome of New York sports; as great as they come on the field, and the ideal person to handle the off-the-field stuff that comes with being the shortstop of the New York Yankees. He was the best. But, this is a story about Eli, not Derek.
The day after the whole “draft day fiasco” with Archie Manning refusing to let his son play for the Chargers and being traded to New York, Eli received a phone call. It was from Derek Jeter. He went on to tell Eli how to handle himself in New York; what it takes, what the fans expect, how winning is everything here. Manning took this to heart. Now, it didn’t help that he had a brother that was already a dominant force in the NFL and scouts had predicted that Eli would be even better. Welcome to New York, come in and be the best quarterback in the NFL, because that’s what your brother is. Good luck. I remember the first start, home against Atlanta. He was terrible. Giants’ fans already wanted him out. He looked overwhelmed. I used to always watch the games with my parents, both die-hard Giants fans. I looked at my dad and told him, “this guy is going to be special.” Coming from a 13-year-old that had only been watching football for a few years, the words probably didn’t hold much weight. But, I just knew.
In 2004, when Eli took over the job as starting QB, this was an offense built around Tiki Barber. He was a premiere running back in the league, and the Giants ran an offense that featured a lot of run plays. Something that never changed, but back then, it was successful. In 2005, they were good. They won 11 games, and Eli barely averaged over 200 passing yards per game. It was a run heavy team that was built around running the ball and rushing the quarterback. Michael Strahan led the defense that was built to dominate up front, on both sides of the ball. Eli was just there to not lose the game, and he did his job. He did what was asked of him. He aided the team to the playoffs in his first full season as a starter. His first playoff game was certainly forgettable. Manning threw 3 INTs in a 23-0 shutout loss to Carolina at home. Giants’ fans were certainly ready to ship him out after this performance.
At the end of the 2006 season, another playoff appearance, another one and done loss, but this time to Philadelphia. Tiki Barber retires, goes on record saying, “the Giants will never win a Super Bowl with Eli Manning, he’s not a leader. Watching Eli run an offensive meeting was comical.” Eli, being Eli, responded by saying “I guess I could have
questioned his leadership skills last year with calling out the coach and having articles about him retiring in the middle of the season, and he’s lost the heart to play.” I loved hearing that from Eli. He finally realized that his words mattered to this team. He wasn’t just the guy that was supposed to turn around and hand the ball to Tiki. This was HIS team. As a fan, I lost all my respect for Tiki Barber. I have no emotional ties to him whatsoever after the way his career ended. But, I thank him for saying those words because I feel like it pushed Eli to a new level. It gave him that “back against the wall” type of confidence that he carried all the way into his last game this past week in Washington.
We all know what he did in 2007. Tiki never won a Super Bowl. Eli won two, so far. The Giants won the year following Tiki’s retirement and comments. 2007 was a magical season in many ways. The 2007 New England Patriots was the greatest team that ever stepped foot on a football field, in my opinion. That team was unbelievable. What the Giants showed me in a 38-35 loss in Week 17 against those Patriots was that this team was the best fit to challenge them. The combination of the pass rush and the offensive line could limit the dominance of New England on both sides of the ball, which they showed in the Super Bowl, twice.
The biggest pet peeve of mine is when all the Eli-haters say the defense carried him to both Super Bowls. I see it the other way around. In 2007, the Giants defense ranked 7th in YPG and 17th in PPG; average. In 2011, the Giants defense ranked 27th in YPG and 25th in PPG; bad. The defenses were not great. They played great in the SBs, sure, but as a whole, they were not great. Eli was great. Michael Strahan didn’t elude a sack on 3rd & 5 that would’ve just about sealed the game for New England and find David Tyree down the middle of the field for a 1st down. Say what you want about the “helmet catch”, the throw was perfect. Justin Tuck didn’t hit Mario Manningham down the sideline on 2nd down in SB 46. Great catch by Manningham, but he didn’t have a choice. The throw was so perfect in a situation so big that he had to catch it. Eli is the constant here, not the variable.
The thing that bothers me most about Eli not playing anymore is not the fact that he got “benched”, not that Geno Smith is the one replacing him, not even that it came in the middle of a season. It’s WHO decided this. Ben McAdoo, the same guy Eli vouched for when Coughlin got run out of town. The same guy who threw Eli under the bus when Eli is the least of the problems in 2017. The same guy who the players who have given up playing for; not showing up for practice, not finishing plays, etc. Manning is one of the very, very few guys on this team that still wanted to win each and every week; that still cared that they lost even though they were already 2-8. McAdoo decided this. Jerry Reese decided this. Jerry Reese, the same guy who drafted 1 pro bowler in his first 9 years as a GM. The same guy who let all 5 offensive linemen retire together without having a plan in place to replace them. Eli means more to this franchise than either of those guys could ever dream of meaning to a team. Eli deserved better than this.
To top it off, you’re replacing him with Geno Smith? The same Geno Smith that got run out of the same facility by Jets’ fans that knew he couldn’t play. The same Geno Smith that 4 years worth of tape showing that he can’t play. McAdoo says he’s still trying to win games. Do you honestly in your heart believe Geno Smith gives your team (without your top 4 receivers, 3 starting linemen and starting RB) a better chance to win than Eli Manning? Eli Manning, the guy that has 14 years of tape showing that he can play. If you do, Ben, you’re even dumber than I thought. Enjoy these last 5 games, buddy, because after this fiasco, you will never be a HC again. But believe me, Eli Manning will play again. Whether it’s here in New Jersey, or somewhere else (Jacksonville), I won’t be alone in watching him in my blue #10 jersey.
And beyond all that, you offer to start him just so he can continue his streak of 210 straight games started, but tell him he won’t be finishing the games. Good for you, Eli, for not falling for this nonsense. As we all know, you’re better than that. Shame on Ben for even bothering to ask. Let us not forget another small tidbit: Eli has appeared in 212 games for the Giants. The record is 216 held by Michael Strahan. If you let Eli finish this season out, he not only continues his streak of consecutive games to 215 that he could continue elsewhere if that is your ultimate decision, but he also finishes his career as the Giants all-time leader with 217 games played. Shame on you, New York Giants, shame on you.
I am as big a Giants fan as you’re ever going to find, but I will not watch these last 5 games this season. I have no interest in watching Geno Smith. I have no interest in watching Ben McAdoo. I have no interest in watching these Giants.
I will watch again next year, of course, but with a new coaching staff, a new GM, all their WRs back. It won’t be the same without #10. #10 has been on the field for the Giants for more than half of my life. He was there every day, every week for 210 straight games.
Now, we enter the QB carousel we so luckily avoided for the past 14 seasons.
I already miss you, Eli.