Standing in front of his locker on Monday to face the media one final time before putting the 2017 season in his rearview mirror, Eli Manning was asked if this had been the most difficult season of his 14 as quarterback of the New York Giants.
“Yeah, I’d say so, I’d say so. Just dealing with a lot. It’s never fun losing a head coach in the middle of the season, it’s never fun losing games and being out of the playoffs as early as we were,” Manning said. “So, it was tough in a lot of areas, but I think just hopefully just going through those tough times you can be stronger because of it.”
The Giants went 3-13. Manning played with a lot of guys who probably didn’t belong in the league. The head coach and GM were fired. Before that head coach went out the door, he took Manning’s streak of 2010 consecutive games started with him. Manning faced lots of questions about his ability, and his future.
No, it wasn’t an easy year for the 36-year-old.
Interim coach Steve Spagnuolo had waited on the field Sunday to give Manning a hug after the victory over the Washington Redskins. Spagnuolo lauded Manning for his demeanor during a difficult year.
“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 has always been even-keeled, vanilla even. Surrounded by the bright lights of New York City, Manning has been boring. There were times you wondered if it would have been nice to see a little more outward fire from the quarterback, but it is that come to work, do your job, be a good teammate nature that has helped him survive in New York. Especially this season.
“Well, you know you’ve got a job to do, that’s to play quarterback and try to win each and every week,” Manning said. “You knew it was going to be tough certain weeks and you felt like you didn’t have everything you could possibly do to win each game, or to do what you want to do. You were limited in some areas after you had some new bodies in there, new players. You’re trying to get on the same page with them, so it just took time to get comfortable and figure out what everybody’s strength was and what we could do offensively once you start losing linemen, losing some receivers.
“So, it was tough. Not just on me, it’s tough on the offensive coordinator, on the coaches, to try to figure out [how to] put a game plan that gives us a shot to win each and every week.”
What the future holds for Manning and the Giants is uncertain. As of Monday afternoon, Manning had only spoken briefly with new GM Dave Gettleman outside the locker room following Sunday’s game.
“I guess there’s more uncertainty this year than after others. But it’s always a disappointing day, that the season’s over, [other than] the two years you win Super Bowls, where it’s not,” Manning said. “It’s always tough that it’s coming to an end and another year that didn’t go as we wanted. You just try to learn from each game, each year, each situation and try to be better for it.”
As he has for several weeks now, Manning reiterated he wants to stay with the Giants — and be the starting quarterback.
“I mean, this is what I want to do. I want to play quarterback for the New York Giants, that’s what I hope happens and obviously we’ll talk and figure out what’s the plan for the franchise going forward,” he said.
Gettleman expressed an initial preference for keeping Manning as quarterback next season, but he did not make a commitment. Nor did he promise not to draft another quarterback.
So, now Manning and the Giants enter their most uncertain offseason since he was drafted in 2004. Everyone has an opinion where it should lead, but no one has the answer yet as to where it will lead.
We will know soon enough.