Eli Manning has given his heart and soul to the New York Giants over the past sixteen seasons, but does that mean he deserves a farewell ‘tribute start’ on his way out?
I expect this to be a hot button issue amongst the New York Giants fan base as the second-half of the 2019 season plays out, and as such, I wanted to get out in front of it. On the surface, it makes little to no sense to trot out a 38-year-old quarterback on a rebuilding, struggling football team. It makes even less sense when said team invested a sixth-overall pick in a rookie quarterback, and that rookie quarterback has thrived.
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However, Eli Manning and his meaning to the Giants organization – and it’s fans – could never make any real sense to outsiders. The highs and lows that fans enjoyed, and suffered, along with Eli is something that is almost unparalleled in sports. Through it all, Eli was the epitome of class and toughness, as the quintessential ‘lead by example’ quarterback never missed a snap due to injury during his illustrious Big Blue career.
I have made my feelings strongly known on wanting to make this entire lost season about only doing things that directly benefit the future of this team, but in this instance, I struggle to feel I have the answer – one way or the other – in terms of this being the right thing to do. I guess that boils down to defining what the right thing to do here even is, as there are so many factors involved.
I’ve also somewhat criticized my favorite athlete of all-time for squeezing every possible dollar he could have out of the Giants during his tenure as quarterback. While a lot of that is rumored to be at the direction of his shrewd, stern agent, Tom Condon, it’s hard not to wonder what this team could have potentially done with the type of extra cap space Tom Brady has afforded the New England Patriots over the years. I bring this up only to make it clear that Eli has already been handsomely-rewarded for his services, as he stands alone as the highest-paid NFL player of all-time (I don’t think even the biggest Eli fan, like me, could make an argument that he’s been the league’s best player).
But let’s throw that out the window – this doesn’t have anything to do with money, and everything to do with saluting a man that has brought us two precious Lombardi trophies, when everyone in the world was saying he, and his team, would never do anything close. Anyone who knows Eli, knows he is chomping at the bit to get back on the field, as he still without a doubt feels he has something left (the great ones always do). Manning has made it clear he is not a fan of celebratory type starts, as he honorable declined to start the infamous ‘Geno Smith game’ in 2017, as he was going to be pulled right after.
I’m not talking about that kind of start, though. I’m talking about a bonafied, full game, where Pat Shurmur gives Eli one last chance to lead his team to victory. For reference – even though it’s a different sport, with much different playing time capabilities – think back to how cool it was to see Kobe Bryant go out the way he did in 2016. Not in the least bit a Lakers fan, I remember being glued to my couch and TV while I watched the legend erupt for sixty points – including scoring thirteen unanswered – to bring his team back from a ten-point deficit with 3:00 remaining. How cool would it be to get a moment even close to that?
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As dark as these last few years have been for this franchise, it would be terrific for the overall morale and feeling around this team for something like that to happen. I’m not saying John Mara personally owes this to Eli after the Geno Smith debacle; I’m also not saying he doesn’t, either.
As far as exact potential games for this to take place, the Washington Redskins game on December 22nd makes a bunch of sense. A divisional rival, in an almost-assuredly meaningless game, right around the holidays? Sounds good to me.
So while this may conflict with my, and many other, people’s general mindset around the 2019 season, I remain puzzled as to if this is a reasonable thing to ask of this storied franchise. I fully-understand that Daniel Jones needs to get as many meaningful snaps, as fast as humanly possible, for the betterment of his future career – this also could become a moot point is the rookie goes down with an injury. But will starting only 13 games, instead of 14, really have that much of an impact on his career? I’m honestly not sure, but I’d like to think not.
I’ll end this with saying I’m honestly fine with this happening, and with it not. That goes against everything I feel a truly interesting journalist should say, as I always try to convey a straight-forward opinion on all topics I cover.
I just have a different kind of feeling when it comes to this one — I’m sure many die-hard New York Giants will feel the same.