It has been a difficult week for Eli Manning. Just eight days ago he was the starting quarterback for the New York Giants, then seven days ago he was benched and missed his first start since 2004.
A day after that start, the head coach who fired him, Ben McAdoo, was fired — as was general manager Jerry Reese.
Manning expressed regret that McAdoo lost his job, saying “I feel for coach McAdoo. He’s been a great coach to me and a great friend. We had a great relationship, I hope we continue to have one. I was able to have a good talk with him Sunday before the game and got to see him Monday before he left as well. I have great respect for Coach McAdoo, and I don’t think this is his fault, but obviously this is where the team is, the Giants had to make a decision, and that’s what happens when you’re 2 and 10.”
Now, two days after the firings on Monday, Eli’s head coach is the Steve Spagnuolo, the former defensive coordinator. And Manning had a message for his new head coach.
“I told him I want to -- I just wanted him to know that I do want to play,” Manning said. “I do want to be the starting quarterback. I want to be out there, and I just wanted to make sure that he knew that. He said that he was going to think about it and talk with the coaches, but his gut said that I would be the starting quarterback. I’m happy he went with that decision and he has the faith in me that we can go win this football game with me at the quarterback.”
And how does Manning feel about getting his starting job back in time to play the division rival Cowboys? His answer shouldn’t surprise you.
“Well, I’m excited,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to play this week, get on the field with my teammates and play the Dallas Cowboys. Played these guys a bunch and I look forward to go out in our home stadium and get these guys a win.”
“It’s important to play,” he added. “That’s what I love to do. I love to play quarterback, and I love playing quarterback for the New York Giants. And so that’s what I work on. You know, last week, something different was asked of me, and I tried to do it to the best of my ability, helping Geno ]Smith] and be the back-up.”
Rookie quarterback Davis Webb praised Eli’s professionalism as a teammate helping Smith prepare for his start, but Manning has to be pleased to be back at the top of the depth chart. And he knows how important division games are, even in this lost season.
Manning knows that the team may yet want to get a look at third-round pick Davis Webb, and he’s prepared for the possibility.
“That may come up, and hey, I understand,” Manning said. “That’s why you take it one game at a time. Obviously that starting job was taken from me and I don’t want to lose it. I understand the position we’re in, I understand why they did it last week. I understand the circumstances and where we stand, so I’m going to try to do my best this week, and see what happens going forward.”
“This is all I know,” he added. “This is all I know is playing for the New York Giants, and I never wish to change that. I appreciate everything the Giants organization has done for me and there’s so much family in this building. From the Mara family, the Tisch family, people in the equipment room, and the film room, you know, the training room. I’ve been with a lot of these people for fourteen years and I’ve grown up around them, so this is all I know. I’m going to finish out this season, then I’m sure there’ll be a discussion to figure out what the plan is going forward.”
It was well reported after last Wednesday that being benched hit Manning hard, but he says that the support he received from Giants fans and former teammates meant a lot to him.
“It helped me keep my head up during last week,” he said, “and just realize the impact that you made on so many people. The championships and the games, and how I conducted myself makes a difference. All the former teammates that sent me text messages to voice their opinions on things, even players that I just met over the years [sent me] text messages, and their support was very helpful. I appreciate that a lot.”
And after that outpouring of support, Manning has one simple request for the fans: Show up and cheer.
“We’re going to compete, and work hard, and we’re going to go try to beat the Dallas Cowboys. I appreciate the support that the fans have given me over the past week, it’s been overwhelming. I appreciate them so much for the texts, the letters, how they expressed their appreciation for me, and I would appreciate it if they came out on Sunday and cheered the team on.”