Eli Manning: This Win is One I'll Remember
East Rutherford, NJ – Eli Manning has won quite a few special games in his career, including two improbable Super Bowl championships.
But it was a meaningless win Sunday against a Miami Dolphins team competing with the Giants for one of the top spots in the draft, that will always hold a special place in the nearly 39-year-old quarterback's heart.
It may be remembered in a few weeks as not only the last start in his 16 years with the Giants, but the last start of his career.
His parents, Archie and Olivia, watched the game from a suite at MetLife Stadium. Giants coach Pat Shurmur did the right thing and removed Manning in the middle of the Giants final series with 1:50 remaining so he could be given one more standing ovation and hear fans one more time chant, "Eli...Manning. Eli...Manning." His teammates mobbed him on the sidelines. And in the tunnel on the way to the locker room after the game, he was greeted by his children and lifted up his daughters and then his infant son.
Statistically speaking, Manning wasn't great. He threw two touchdowns, three interceptions and amassed 283 yards on 20 pass completions out of 28 attempts.
But unlike Monday night's game against the Eagles where he was red-hot early on in his first start in two months only to fizzle out in the second half, Manning was brilliant in the final two quarters against Miami, completing 12 of 14 passes and bringing the downtrodden Giants back from a 10-7 halftime deficit.
Manning tried to deflect credit when it was mentioned how his teammates raved about his rousing pregame speech getting them fired up. “I don’t think a pregame speech has ever won a football game before. I still don’t think it has,” Manning said, shrugging.
The Giants went on to beat the Dolphins 36-20, breaking a franchise-tying worst nine-game losing streak to get their record to 3-11. It was their highest point total of the season and just the second time they've reached 30.
“I just said a little something to get them ready," Manning said. "I appreciate the hard work they’ve been putting in all year. Offense, defense, everybody, they’ve been competing and they work hard. You see it in practice, and you’re just excited to give them this feeling afterward.”
“It was damn good,” receiver Sterling Shepard said with a smile. “It got everybody fired up and ready to go out and play. He’s not one for the pregame speeches, but he gave us one today, and it got everybody fired up.”
But no one was more fired up than Manning, who has endured the growing volume of criticism from skeptics who have opined that he’s washed up. The victory Sunday evened his regular-season record at 117-117.
“I thought he played a great game,” Shurmur said. “He made a lot of great plays. Certainly, everybody will point to some of the bad plays— which were the interceptions.
“But I was really pleased with the way he led us and got us in the end zone, was real good with the run game stuff, making sure we were in the right run. He sort of played an Eli Manning-type game in my mind and helped lead us to victory.”
For Manning, wins are always special, but that he got to share this one with his family, including his son Charlie, who was born earlier this year, was even more memorable.
“I think it’s special that my kids get to come and watch some games,” he said, minutes after he was greeted with big hugs and smiles from his daughters in the tunnel leading to the locker room.
“I don’t remember my dad playing at all. He retired when I was four years old. My brothers have memories. They always kind of talked about it, in the locker room, around games and I don’t remember.
“So, I try to bring my kids around as much as possible, bring them to some games. I know my youngest son won’t remember any of it, but we’ll at least have a picture to show him one day.”
Manning knows when Daniel Jones, his rookie successor who has already been crowned the starter, is given the green light by the team’s training staff to return from a high ankle sprain, that will mean Manning returns to the bench where it’s been a cold, and often lonely place.
“Of course I’d like to (start again),” he said. “I know Daniel’s getting close to getting ready and getting better. We’ll see what his status is. I get it either way. I know they want to get him back and get him more experience and more reps and everything. Whatever I’m asked to do, I’ll do it.”
If he doesn’t get that opportunity to start again, he’ll always have the memories of the crowd chanting his name, and giving him a standing ovation that is hard to come by in a lost season.
“Obviously, I don’t know what the future is. I don’t know what lies next week, let alone down the road,” Manning said.
“The support and the fans, their ovation, chanting my name from the first snap to the end-- I appreciate that. I appreciate them always and all my teammates coming up to me. It’s a special day, a special win, and one I’ll remember.”
The Giants play at Washington next week and finish at home against the Eagles. If Manning doesn't step on the field again for the Giants, or for anybody else, this was a victory and a day to cherish and a pretty good way to go out.