So many highs sprinkled with some lows, Eli Manning’s career had it all. And Friday was a celebration of it all, as Eli said goodbye to football and composed way he played the game for 16 years.
“For most of my life people have called me easy. Believe me, nothing is easy about today. Wellington Mara always said: Once a Giant, always a Giant. For me, it is only a Giant,” Manning said.
That was as emotional as Eli got, always as as cool as a cucumber. We nearly saw a tear during the Giants’ video tribute before the press conference.
Co-owner John Mara became the most emotional when he announced that Eli will be inducted into the ring of honor next season, along with the team retiring his jersey.
“And please know this: No Giants will wear number 10 again,” he said.
It was a who’s who of Big Blue this morning in East Rutherford: From Michael Strahan to Phil Simms to Ernie Acorsi to Tom Coughlin. And since he announced his retirement on Wednesday, the Hall of Fame debate has raged on. Eli didn’t want to topic, but his former teammates weren’t as shy.
“Not a concern. My focuse is reliving the great moments and memories with my teammates and family and let everything else work out from there,” Manning said.
“Next stop is Canton. I’ll let y’all media pundits decide if it’s first ballot or not. But the guy’s in. There’s no shadow of a doubt,” said David Tyree.
“The Hall of Fame is reserved for special players who have done special things in the NFL. And you can’t write the history of the NFL without talking about Eli and what he’s done,” Shaun O’Hara said.
“I took a lot of notes on how he handled New York. He’s been a great role model for me all these years,” Eli said. “I’m just trying to figure out which one of you didn’t vote for him. There’s only one of you, so I know you’re in here.”
So what’s next for Eli? He said he didn’t know. He was asked if he would take John Mara up on his offer for a position within a the organization. He said he’d have to talk to John and then think about.
He did admit he’d miss time with teammates the most, including cold beers in the back of the bus.
On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell paid tribute to Manning, saying “Eli Manning leaves an indelible imprint on the New York Giants, their fans, and the NFL. His passion for the game, intense preparation, and the ability to rise to the occasion were the hallmarks of his career.”
Manning will be best known for his two incredible come-from-behind Super Bowl titles, both wins stunning the New England Patriots, led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Manning saved his best for those two Super Bowl MVP performances.
Congratulations on your retirement, and a great career Eli! Not going to lie though, I wish you hadn’t won any Super Bowls.
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) January 24, 2020
“Congratulations on your retirement, and a great career Eli! Not going to lie though, I wish you hadn’t won any Super Bowls,” Brady wrote on Twitter.
— New York Giants (@Giants) January 24, 2020
“We joke around about this but it’s not real funny to him,” Manning replied, according to the New York Giants.
Eli was accountable, reliable and available every week for 16 years. Manning never missed a game to injury, and he took his share of shots. The 2011 championship game alone should have had Manning in traction. He took a beating. But not this QB: Number 10 answered the bell for 210 consecutive starts. That’s third of all time.
“To the Giants fans. You are definitely unique. And I love you for that,” Manning said.
His resume is Hall of Fame caliber:
- 234 starts
- Two time Super Bowl champion and MVP
- Over 57,000 yards passing
- 366 touchdowns
All top 10, all time.
Eli, a Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient, has always placed philanthropy first. The Eli Manning Children’s Clinic in Mississippi sees over 75,000 kids annually. Locally, at Hackensack Medical Center, Manning mans the Tackle Kids Cancer program. On top of that, Eli has raised tens of millions of dollars for the March of Dimes and other local charities.
Fans got a chance to say thank you this season, when Eli, ironically, started for an injured Jones and provided a spark in an otherwise dismal season with his late season win over Miami. The wave goodbye, the tears in his eyes, the win capped off with Eli running up the tunnel to the warm welcome of his wife Abby, their three girls and Eli’s infant son Charlie.
“That is my farewell, and a moment I will cherish forever,” Manning said.
Today is an emotional day for everyone who loves the football Giants. Eli has been the face of this franchise, a consummate professional, a Mann for all seasons.