Crazy how this all worked out, right? That the NFL team desperately in need of a distraction and some public goodwill somehow stumbled into a situation where a late-revealed sprained ankle sustained by their struggling rookie quarterback somehow allows their fan-favorite veteran quarterback to start at least one of the final few games of his storied Giants career.
What are the odds!?
Luckily for the Giants, we are suckers for this kind of stuff. We’ll also buy any extended warranties you’d like to offer us and purchase any swampland in Florida that might be available. I will pay to see the Rolling Stones deep into their nineties. I will never not see a Space Jam sequel, no matter how branded and commercialized it tastes being jammed down my throat. And an Eli Manning farewell tour, however it may come, is good for the soul.
We’ve all had our fun with the affable Giants quarterback, but the truth is that this is the first farewell of many to soon come for good NFL quarterbacks that were an influential part of massive growth in the league’s history. Despite whatever way Manning found his way onto the Giants’ roster in the first place, his pair of Super Bowl wins over the Patriots are part of the reason we’re all here doing this for a living, caring about this, writing about this, watching and reading about it. Regardless of whether he deserves admission into the NFL Hall of Fame, he is one of the most important players on one of the most important franchises in the league.
New York tends to overdo farewells like this, which is a condition of the sports market this used to be. And as corny as the remaining moments of Derek Jeter’s career felt in New York, as forced as every last Mariano Rivera outing seemed, as ugly as the final games Tom Coughlin spent on the sidelines were, it felt like adequate closure. We need that for Eli.
Plus, the chance to see Manning potentially sink the desperately flailing Eagles on Monday Night Football is something that may satiate even the most cold-at-heart Giants fan who is bracing for another maddening coaching search this offseason and a higher draft choice than a team that is actively trying to lose games. This is a game that, somehow, beyond Daniel Jones, beyond Saquon Barkley, beyond the offensive line Dave Gettleman is trying to smash together, beyond the struggling defense, will have meaning no matter how fleeting that might be.
As some smart minds have noted, proceeding this way always has the chance to backfire. What if Manning plays exceptionally well against the Eagles and aggravates the hive of supporters who have all along believed that the Giants have not given Manning a good enough supporting cast to succeed? What if Jones is seriously injured and misses out on some critical developmental opportunities at the end of his rookie season? What if Manning plays poorly and the entire feel-good aesthetic snowballs into an offseason rage spiral full of vitriolic sports talk radio phone calls and untimely MetLife Stadium flyover protests?
That may be inevitable. So are the difficulties of molding and growing a franchise quarterback in the shadow of a legend—high ankle sprain or not. But sometimes life gives us little moments that we are meant to digest only after trimming off the cynicism. Monday night against the Eagles is one of those times.
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