Eli Manning will be officially announcing his retirement on Friday morning. After 16 seasons as the quarterback for the New York Giants, the veteran will be announcing his decision during a press conference that is scheduled for 11am ET. It will be aired live as a SportsCenter Special on ESPN 2.
During what is sure to be an emotional media session, the decorated signal-caller will cap off a storied career that saw him lead the Giants to a pair of Super Bowl victories in the 2007 and ‘11 seasons. Not only that, but the Ole Miss draftee is just one of five players to win multiple SB MVPs in National Football League history (Joe Montana, Bart Starr, Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw).
It is said that as an individual, you are the company you keep. Referring to Manning’s career, that would translate to the idea that he is NFL royalty. Accomplished enough to that point that his name will be remembered among the greatest to ever strap-it-up on the gridiron.
Manning is big time. As a matter of fact, he’s been big time for a long time. In the Big Apple; nonetheless.
So go ahead and ask me the question, “Mike, what do you mean by that”?
What I will to you is that the boyish-looking Eli is a unique player. Not yet officially retired, both he and his career deserve to be reflected upon in the present tense. That will all change in due time, but for now, the proper level of respect must be maintained.
Eli Manning is tough. Yes, tough as nails. He ranks third all-time for the most consecutive starts in NFL history, as that streak ended at 210 games. As one of the game’s ironmen on the gridiron, only 2004 NFL Draft-mate Phillip Rivers and Brett Favre have started more consecutive games.
Not only is Manning tough, but the four-time Pro Bowler is rich. Yes, he is rich beyond his wildest dreams.
Maybe, it’s a testament to having played his entire career in the world’s biggest media market; Or maybe, just maybe it can be attributed to the fact that he was the first overall pick before rookie contract limits were imposed, and that his longevity and early success has allowed for him to capitalize numerous times in contract re-negotiations.
Nevertheless, Manning is currently the highest-paid player in the history of the game. Having earned over $250 million throughout his career, he will hold that title until at least the end of next season when he is sure to be passed by other all-time greats including Drew Brees, and the previously mentioned Brady.
Manning is well revered by his employers and peers, as well as critics alike. They rave about his dedication and work ethic, as well as his leadership abilities.
“For 16 seasons, Eli Manning defined what it is to be a New York Giant both on and off the field.”
Those are the words of John Mara, the Giants’ president and chief executive officer. During a statement announcing Manning’s retirement Wednesday he also said, “Eli is our only two-time Super Bowl MVP and one of the very best players in our franchise’s history. He represented our franchise as a consummate professional with dignity and accountability. It meant something to Eli to be the Giants quarterback, and it meant even more to us. We are beyond grateful for his contributions to our organization and look forward to celebrating his induction into the Giants Ring of Honor in the near future.”
His brother, NFL great Peyton Manning had quite a bit to say when honoring his brother during an interview with Aric DiLalla of denverbroncos.com. The elder Manning said, “As his brother, I have such admiration and love for him. But as a quarterback, I have incredible respect for his toughness, his accountability [and] his leadership skills.”
Big brother loves his little brother very much and is probably his biggest fan. At one point it was noted that Eli is his third-favorite quarterback trailing behind only their father Archie Manning, and Miami Dolphins’ great Dan Marino.
Eli’s longtime coach Tom Coughlin played a vital role in a younger Eli’s development and helped to groom him into a two-time champion. The former Giants coach told CBS Sports that, “It was an honor and privilege to coach Eli, and to go through the wonderful and magnificent moments that he and his teammates provided for all of us.”
Coughlin further added, “Eli Manning not only is the quarterback on those great teams, but he is the MVP of the Super Bowls. He’s an incredible big-game performer. You talk about a guy that’s great to coach, focused every day, took tremendous pride in preparing, practice, had a great sense of humor, was a cynic in the locker room. But the guys loved him and they loved him for it, and they played for him. The guys that had the opportunity to play with him know what it’s like to be with a guy with as much talent, as much grit, as much determination. Here goes the retirement of a great, great football Giant”
The list of respects that have been paid to Manning is as long as a New York mile.
However, the one quote that resonates with me the most was probably the simplest. Thursday afternoon on his daily radio show The Herd on Fox Sports, Colin Cowherd said, “You cannot tell the story of the NFL without Eli Manning.”
If you sit back and think about that, it’s pretty direct and dead on.
In an era of football that seems to be coming to a close, it’s my opinion and I say this with one hundred percent absolute certainty. Eli Manning will be the most debatable candidate for football immortality.
Elaborating on that, Manning gets knocked because of the fact that he’s a career .500 QB. His record as a starter is a dead-even 117-117 in the regular season. Also, he gets knocked because he led the league in interceptions on three different occasions and was never an All-Pro.
Let me tell you right now, that is where the arguments against him end.
His achievements begin with the fact that he beat the most dominant dynasty in the history of the NFL not once, but twice in the Super Bowl. Yes, I’m referring to his victories against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The two GOATs. Manning was able to take them down on the biggest stage of all.
After that, it’s important to note that he ranks seventh all-time in three separate categories with 57,023 passing yards, 366 touchdown passes, and 4,895 completions.
All the previously mentioned feets are blatantly obvious to the untrained ear or eye. But what is probably his most noteworthy achievement, in my opinion, is his performance in the playoffs. Manning holds a record of 8-4, with five of those wins coming on the road.
Eli Manning’s success in the early stages of his career are good enough for this football giant to fade away into the sunset with no regrets, and without anything left to prove. He departs with respect. He departs with grace. He departs with admiration. He departs with love.
Most importantly, he departs as a man who will certainly one day be enshrined into Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame.