Eli Manning answered the New York media’s questions one last time after announcing his retirement Friday afternoon.
Q: Curious, why retire now instead of pursue opportunities, because you had kind of indicated you felt like you had something left to give.
ELI MANNING: Well, I think it was important to me to go out as a Giant, and I think when you get drafted and you come to an organization, I think that’s always your goal to stay with one organization your entire career.As you get towards the end of it, it doesn’t always work out that way and you still have desires to play sometime, but I think it was important, the fans, the organization, this family with the Giants, has been so remarkable. I think it was the right thing to call it a career and to end it instead of trying to uproot my family and leave and try somewhere else.This was the right decision, and I know it is and I’m at peace with it. I think that’s what has made this day a little bit easier.
Q: How much pride do you take in your durability, never missing a start, and was there a game it was close that you might have missed?
ELI MANNING: There was a couple games where it was close, I didn’t practice most of the week and maybe went out on a Friday for the first time.I think what it was, was a lot about trying to be there for your teammates. You saw guys playing through injuries. You saw offensive lineman that were sore, beat-up running backs that were sore every week, but they did what they could to be there for their teammates, ownership, their coaches and that’s really what it was more about.I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t want to let them know they were working and doing everything, so I knew I would always — hey, if I had to be in the training room all day, Ronnie Barnes, with the training staff and make them — hey, whatever it took to get healthy, I was going to do it, and if I felt I could play and play well enough to win a football game, then I wanted to be out there. That was always the mindset to do everything possible to be out there for my team.
Q: You’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. What you do see yourself doing a year from now, five years from now?
ELI MANNING: I don’t know. I think these last few weeks as I made this decision, I really didn’t think much about going forward. I think a lot of my time was spent just reflecting on these past 16 years. I talked to a lot of coaches, a lot of former teammate. We had a lot of laughs, a few cries, just about the great moments. And so I think my focus has been on that. You know, I look forward to a little downtime. I look forward to spending time with my family, coaching Ava’s third great basketball team, assistant coach, and just being involved with my kids and Abby and getting to do some things that I’ve missed out on because of this job and occupation and dedication I gave to it. I think I’m going to take some time and just enjoy it and then figure out what my next steps are.
Q: Thanks for the class and elegance over the years. Do you think you got closure from the last victory and did that make the decision easier because that game ended up the way it was beautifully, with the victory at home in the tunnel?
ELI MANNING: As I talked about, that was a special game and just because — you know, this sport, it’s different. It’s different than a lot of other sports where you kind of have a farewell tour in baseball or basketball, when you kind of know you’re going to retire that season. This year, you don’t know what’s going to happen. But I think the fact that my contract was up and this was maybe going to be my last start, and to get a win in your home stadium and to have the crowd and kind of that recognition, I think there was kind of — you know, as I said, my farewell. I think it does help give you a little bit of closure and kind of have one last great positive memory that you can kind of remember your last game that you played was a win at home and the emotions that surrounded that. So I think it did help make this process easier.
Q: John Mara had said that he would welcome you into the organization in some capacity. Have you thought of taking on a role within the Giants in the future? Is that something you would be interested in later on?
ELI MANNING: Yeah, I think that would be something I would be interested in. I’ve just got to, you know, have to discuss that and talk to Mr. Mara and see in what ways, and I’ve got to think about in what way. I think, you know, again, I’ll take some time and just figure out, you know, how I want to spend these next years. But this organization, as I said, so many close friends within the organization, and not just the former teammates, but people in all departments of the organization. The faces, they don’t change. People don’t leave here because of all the wonderful people and the way the organization is run, and they take care of the people here. You do have so many great people that I’d love to be around and be around the people that I call my friends.
Q: What was it like being a backup last year and Daniel, what do you think the future holds for him as a Giants quarterback?
ELI MANNING: Yeah, I think there’s a bright future. There’s obviously, I try to think of the positive moments and great memories, and I have a lot of them. I have a lot of fond memories of being in the meeting rooms and being with the coaches and being around Daniel and Alex Tanney in the quarterback room. We had lots of laughs and great work that we did. I know Daniel. I appreciate a lot of things about him, and the fact that he loves the game of football. He’s passionate about it and he works extremely hard, so you appreciate those things. If that weren’t the case, it might have been harder to go through this situation, but you see the way he conducts himself, and I think, you know, he’s got a bright, bright future ahead of him and do so the Giants.
Q: When you look behind you, the two huge banners with the Lombardi trophies, when you look at those, your teammates always talked about your ability to stay calm in the craziest times and the word often used is “clutch.” What does “clutch” mean to you and why were you able to do that?
ELI MANNING: You know, I always thought in those moments, in a two-minute drive or a situation, I think there’s people that have different reactions to certain things. Some people when they get in that moment, they are scared they might make a mistake or worried about the bad things that could happen and what those outcomes could be and how that might affect them, where when I get in that situation, I only think about how awesome it’s going to be when we go down the field and score this touchdown. That’s the mindset and that’s what you work toward and you game plan. It’s not ‘what are the problems?’ It’s, ‘what are the plays that are going to work and what are the plays that are going to be successful?’ and you have those and you work them and you plan for those. It’s the mindset and I think that’s contagious around your teammates when they sense that and they feel that, and you have, you know, new guys that might be in that scenario, but I’ve been in it before. We’ve had fourth quarter wins and so I think they trust in me and so it’s the team coming together and being confident in those scenarios that they can go out there and everybody can raise their level of play just a little bit more and so you get that opportunity to go win that game.
Q: You talked about how you wanted to do it your way and how you believed everyone would come around and respect that. Was it difficult in the early years?
ELI MANNING: There was definitely difficult times in the early years. You’re struggling as a player sometimes and you’re not winning as many games, and you’re dealing with the New York media and they are harping on you about different things. I think that’s the time when you kind of test it, and you just say, I have to stay true and know that the hard work, the dedication, the commitment; you rely on your values and know they will get you through those times. When you do that, you see the progress and you see little steps of getting better and improvement verifies it, so you can stay that course. If you try to become — just because you’re maybe struggling or you’ve had — even the good times or even the bad times, if you start changing your ways and start having the outside world affect the way you conduct yourself, the way you act around your friends or your family or teammates, I just don’t see there being any positives in that.
I’m naturally a quiet guy, but I work hard and I try to earn the respect from my teammates through my dedication and my hard work. If I tried to be a ‘rah-rah’ or yelling at people, you know, it wouldn’t be natural. It would be awkward. It would be fake and that would be sniffed out and it would come back to haunt me I think.
Q: You handled the challenge of going to Ole Miss, and being a Manning and ignoring the trappings of New York. Where did that intestinal fortitude come from?
ELI MANNING: I think I tried to look at the big picture of things and get a sense of a place where I’m going to be happy and where it feels right. There’s people that I meet within the organization. Obviously when I went to Ole Miss, David Cutcliffe was the head coach and that was someone I trusted and appreciated and someone that I knew. I knew working with him was going to make me a better football player and that’s why I went to Ole Miss was to be a better football player. When I was interviewing with the Giants, I met with Mr. Mara and Tom Coughlin, the whole Giants organization, and I saw their commitment to football. I saw their commitment and just a storied franchise that that’s what they cared about. They cared about winning games and just putting a great team out there each and every year, and I appreciated that; that desire, that same commitment. I know I had that same desire about football and would fit well in this organization. So that’s why we made it work and why I wanted to come here.
Q: Another New York sports icon went into the Hall of Fame this week, Derek Jeter. I wonder what you learned from him about handling this market, and also, second part would be what would it mean for you to go into your sport’s Hall of Fame?
ELI MANNING: I’m just trying to figure out which one of y’all didn’t vote for him. (Laughter) I know there’s only one of you, so I know you’re probably in here. You know, Derek was great. He called me my rookie year when we were starting, lost a few games, and he just talked to me about that it would get easier and stay the course and be yourself and keep working, and things do improve. We’ve had a good relationship over the years. Seen him at several things and stayed in touch somewhat. After that, it was someone who I watched closely and how he conducted himself, how he dealt with the media, how he dealt with fans and how he worked hard and how he stayed humble in all circumstances after so many championships that he’s won. He was on top of the world. You know, I took a lot of notes from how he handled New York, so he’s been great role model for me all these years. Your second question, that’s not a concern. My focus now is just reliving the great moments and the great memories with my teammates and my family, and let everything else work out from there.
Q: I just want to know, what would be your message to future generations of Giants players?
ELI MANNING: I think my message to all the Giants players is that, you’re coming to a wonderful organization that truly cares about your well-being, but — and if you — they are committed to doing whatever it takes to put a winning team out there on the field and to bring championships here — and dedication to this organization that they have in you, great things will get accomplished.
Q: If you did not have that game against the Dolphins that Sunday, how different do you think the process would have been leading up to today?
ELI MANNING: Yeah, I don’t know. It’s hard to have hypothetical questions. I’m happy it happened and I guess I won’t try to look back and see how things would have been different if it had.
Q: Tom Brady tweeted just a little while ago wishing you the best in retirement and congratulating you on a great career. He said, “Not going to lie, though. I wish you hadn’t won any Super Bowls.” Those two moments, of course, will live forever. What do you take from head-to-head against Tom Brady and also delivering what people thought were unlikely championships those two years?
ELI MANNING: I’ve been around Tom a number of times and see how competitive he is. We joke around it a little bit, but I think it’s not real funny to him. You know, those are obviously — when you think about the great moments in your career, those are going to be at the top of the list, when you win championships and both of them, two-minute drives to go down there and win it against an undefeated team that had not lost all year; I think those are special.I think everybody wants to make it me versus Tom Brady. It was the Giants versus Patriots. Our defenses played outstanding. Guys made plays. David Tyree, Mario Manningham, Plaxico Burress, in the corner of the end zone. Like I said, you just cherish those moments and you cherish those relationships that you have with those teammates and coaches when you win those games, and you know, those are — that’s obviously why you play for. You play for the opportunity to win a championship. You realize how hard it is and how difficult and all the breaks that have to go your way and that you got to overcome to get to those scenarios. Those are special ones that fortunately you get to kind of relive those moments through your friends.
Q: Obviously this was a tough decision. What was the best advice that you were given and who gave it to you?
ELI MANNING: You know, I talked to a lot of people. Peyton, I relied on Peyton a lot because obviously the similarities and going through a career and trying to decide how it ended. I talked to him a lot about when he changed franchises from the Colts to Denver and how that affected him and it was a little different scenario. I talked to him a lot about that. I talked to coaches and teammates and just trying to get their ideas, guys who had left organizations and learned a couple things. Guys with the Giants, having to leave and go other places, they all kind of said the same thing. They said it’s not the same other places; it’s different. I think it was just a lot of people said, ‘hey, sit on it, think on it. Don’t rush into any decisions.’ I might have rushed into it a little bit because I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew 100 percent I’m not going to have — I’m not going to regret this. When I make a decision, I commit to it and make it the right decision. This is it and this is the right one. It’s an honor to have played here 16 years and to have only played here.