Eli Manning lingered on the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday after the New York Giants had defeated the Washington Redskins, 18-10. Surrounded by cameras he hugged interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo and then waved to the few frozen, cheering fans left in the stadium before heading down the tunnel to the locker room.
Was that the final time he will run through that tunnel as quarterback of the Giants?
Manning said there was nothing different, no possible goodbye, in the way he left the Stadium.
“I always do that at the fans. My family was up there, so I’m usually waving at them and waving at the crowd that was here today, that were calling my name, or chanting, that were here supporting us,” Manning said. “So, you always appreciate the fans and especially the fans in a tough year and in this situation. Cold and not playing for much, to show up for this game and cheering the way they did and hanging in there, I appreciate that.”
In the waning moments Sunday, with the Giants just running out the clock, chants of “Eli Manning” arose from the sparsely populated stands.
“I heard them,” Manning said. “And, again, I appreciate all the fans, their support this whole year. It’s been overwhelming and for them to support me, support the team the way they have, it’s been special.”
Manning admitted this has been his “toughest year.”
“Yeah, it’s probably been my toughest year of football, I would say. Obviously with the losses, with the injuries, with a benching and coming back and uncertainty and everything going on. But really, the losses more than anything probably,” Manning said. “It’s tough, it’s tough to prepare every week and to put all the effort into it and to not get the outcomes you want. Especially some heartbreakers that we lost early on in the season and then we kind of started losing some of our personnel. So, it’s been tough, but hopefully we learn from it and grow from it.”
New general manager Dave Gettleman stopped Manning, still in full uniform, outside the locker room for a few words post game. Manning knows that Gettleman has indicated his first thought would be that Manning would be the Giants’ quarterback next season, but the quarterback and GM have yet to sit down for a full conversation.
“I think we’ve just got to see what happens,” Manning said. “So, again, when we talk – I always think the talks in person are more important than what’s said in the media. So, we’ll have a discussion and I look forward to that.”
As he has a number of times in recent weeks, Manning reiterated that he wants to remain with the Giants.
“Yeah, 100 percent. I don’t want to go play football anywhere else. This is where I want to play, this is my family, the New York Giants,” he said. “So, hopefully they feel the same way and we can make that work out.”
Interim coach Steve Spagnuolo waited on the field to hug Manning after the game. Spagnuolo, who will interview for the full-time head-coaching job but could well end up with no job at all in the organization, wanted to capture the moment.
“I did ask the camera guy, ‘Can you get a picture when I hug Eli?’ Because, you know, it’s a memory. It’s a memory. We’ve both been through a lot and none more than him with this season, but he never changed,” Spagnuolo said. “I value that in people that can stay that balanced through ups and downs. He’s had the highest of highs and this was certainly very, very low, but he’s a tremendous competitor and I appreciate him greatly.”
Manning didn’t have a pretty game on Sunday. He went just 10-of-28 for 132 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was, however, missing Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. His wide receivers were Travis Rudolph, Hunter Sharp and Marquis Bundy. The Giants, unofficially, dropped eight passes.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game I’ve ever had, but to get this win, feel good for Coach Spags, for all the coaches. It’s not just been tough on players, this is tough on the coaches and the fans and everybody,” Manning said. “So, it might not mean a whole lot when you look at it to get the third win, but it does mean something to the players. Guys have been working hard, they’ve been competing, they’ve been giving great effort all year and just to get a win and feel good in the locker room and have some cheers and have some hugs and kind of end this tough year on a good note is special.”
Whether it was his last win in MetLife Stadium as quarterback of the Giants remains to be seen.