[EDITOR’S NOTE: With Wednesday’s announcement that Eli Manning will end his 16-year career here is a look back at a ‘BBV Round Table’ we did last month discussing the top moments of his career.]
This Sunday will, in all likelihood, mark the end of the road for Eli Manning as a member of the New York Giants. Manning has said that he still wants to play, and that he will be looking for an opportunity to compete for a starting job, but nothing is for certain. It is entirely possible that week 15’s dominant victory over the Miami Dolphins will be the last of Eli’s career.
It only seems right then that we take a moment — and we’ll probably be taking more than that over the coming weeks and months — to look back and recognized some of number 10’s best moments.
Of course you already knew four of those five moments before you even clicked on this piece:
- Out-dueling Brett Favre in a frigid Green Bay in the 2008 NFC Championship.
- Eli to Manningham in Super Bowl 46.
- Eli, battered and muddy, yet rising again in the slop in San Francisco in the 2012 NFC Championship.
- Eli’s miraculous escape, setting up The Catch by David Tyree in Super Bowl 42.
These moments are etched in not only Giants’ history, but in the history of the NFL. Any list of Eli’s greatest moments will include those.
So rather than focus on ones we’ll be seeing time and again, I decided to ask the BBV staff for that one memory or moment that stands out to them to round out the list.
Eli Manning as quarterback of the New York Giants is all that I know. For me, it will always be what he stood for off the field that make him worth remembering. For that reason, I am going way back to week seven in the 2005 season when the Giants defeated the Broncos, 24-23.
To understand the full significance of the game requires context. Two nights before the matchup, players had been notified that Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch were battling very serious forms of cancer. Each had been recently released from the hospital and were watching the game from home.
The Giants were trailing, 23-10, in the fourth quarter but a missed field goal by the Broncos changed the momentum. Tiki Barber scored to pull them within five and then Manning got the ball on the Giants 17-yard line with 3:29 left.
Manning went 9-for-13 for 73 yards on the drive, including a 24-yard pass to Jeremy Shockey on third-and-10. With just 12 seconds left and on the two-yard line, Manning scrambled and found Amani Toomer for the game-winning touchdown.
It was only his 13th career start, but Manning called it ”The biggest play so far of my career.”
Under emotional circumstances, Manning did what he became known for: remaining calm and focused. Little did he or the fans know that it would be one big play amongst many others over a 16-year career.
I’ve summed up most of my thoughts on Eli from the odd perspective of being a Patriots fan, and having him crush my soul in two of the sport’s most memorable moments.
Given that those “Manning Moments” are ineligible for selection here, I have to go with a game that put in in position to deliver on one of those gut-punch wins: The 2011-2012 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers.
In old Candlestick Park, on a raw late January afternoon with the rain driving and wind swirling, Manning somehow managed to complete 32 of 58 passes for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 17-yarder to Mario Manningham in the 4th quarter to give the Giants a 17-14 lead with under nine minutes to go.
Of course, the game would need overtime, after the 49ers tied it late in regulation. The Giants won it on a field goal when Kyle Williams mishandled a punt, gifting the visitors great field position for the game-winning field goal.
But what stands out to me was the battle that Manning fought, and what he endured, on that night. Hit 12 times and sacked 6, which were both season highs for the Giants’ passer. But he fought through it, and led his team to another Super Bowl berth.
Where he’d break my heart a second time a few weeks later.
(Note from Chris: I specifically said both NFC Championship games were too easy and off limits... Just like a Pats’ fan to cheat. Fortunately, Mark is otherwise awesome, so I guess I’ll have to give him a pass. And this WAS an all-time moment.)
For most of my life as a Giants fan, Eli Manning was the only quarterback I’ve seen start for the Big Blue. Up until the 2019 season, Eli was a staple for a team that endured significant inconsistency. Coaches and players came and went, but every game I watched number 10 sling touchdowns, lead game winning drives, and continuously beat the odds. Even though I’ve watched him make so many legendary plays and win two Super Bowls, the moment I find myself hung up on is the one from a few weeks ago against the Miami Dolphins.
After all of the ups and downs of Eli’s career that I’ve witnessed, it all seemed to culminate into a single moment that summed up his career. The game was not perfect. Manning threw for 3 interceptions, but surpassed 250 yards and two touchdowns. They beat a lifeless Dolphins team with significantly more issues than the Giants. He won what is likely the last game of his career in New York, giving him a perfectly average record of 117-117.
However, his performance was not what will make this moment memorable. What made it so special is seeing how fans at MetLife treated him in the final minutes of the game and after.
The Giants beat the Dolphins 36-20 in what feels like Eli Manning's last home game with the Giants pic.twitter.com/33KiFbIYn5— Lee Harvey (@AyeThatsLee) December 15, 2019
Hearing their cheers of appreciation for all he’s done for the franchise and seeing his reaction was the perfect way to end his time in New York. Not every quarterback gets the chance to win one last game at home in front of fans who praised him his whole career. It could have all ended after Week 2 when he was benched for the development of Daniel Jones. Instead, everything aligned and he was given one last shot go out big.
I thought about this one for a while. There are any number of games I could turn to. In the end, I settled on a personal, non-playing moment because it speaks to the thing I think I have appreciated most about Manning in the years I have covered the Giants — the kind of person he is.
My favorite Manning moment? Getting to interview him one-one-one via phone during the summer of 2018.
Manning was doing an event for kids at Kean University in New Jersey. Media was invited, but the travel was prohibitive for me. As I often do in these situations, I asked for a phone interview with no real belief Manning would agree to one. He not only did, but he spent his time on the phone with me giving respectful, real answers to my bumbling questions.
I’ve been in any number of Manning press conferences over the years, but he really doesn’t know me. He could have easily blown me off, but he didn’t. For me, I think I will always remember the kind of person Manning is as much or more than the player he was. This was an example of that.
It took me a minute to come up with a moment that would round out this list. And there were certainly more consequential moments, but the one I kept coming back to was the Giants’ 33-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 20th, 2009.
That game was the first regular season NFL game played in the new Cowboy’s stadium. It was supposed to be the christening of Jerry Jones’ billion dollar playpen, but something happened on the way to the party... It wasn’t Tony Romo and the Cowboys who got the first win in their new stadium, but Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
Not only did it see Eli spoil the grand opening of the Cowboys’ new home, throwing his 100th career touchdown (22 yards to Mario Manningham) in the process, it also saw this.
To me this is the quintessential “Eli” moment. The ultra-competitive (yet somehow impossibly even-keeled) player who won when he wasn’t supposed to, but also the prankster who can’t help but give the knife a good-natured twist. It also shows the level of respect even division rivals have for him: Jerry Jones wouldn’t let anyone remove Eli’s autograph.
More Jerry on Eli's win that day: "That one will always be noticed. I wouldn’t let them take that signature off that locker for anything."— Brandon George (@DMN_George) November 24, 2014
I don’t know what the future holds for No. 10 as I sit and write this. If he still wants to play, I think he still has the ability to help a team. If this is the end of the line, the only thing I can say is “Thank you, Eli.”