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Eli Manning weighs in on state of Giants, helmet catch, and more

Eli explained why he thinks Daniel Jones can take the next step

Los Angeles Rams v New York Giants
Eli Manning
Photo by Mike Stobe/Mike Stobe

Which New York Giants fan doesn’t love to hear from Eli Manning?

The fondest sports memories I have from my childhood are of Eli raising those two Super Bowl trophies. I’d venture a guess that this holds true for Giants fans of all ages, even the ones who remember the Bill Parcells glory days. There was something unique about the 2007 and 2011 Giants because they were true underdogs, the team no one believed in either time. Even the 1990 team did not have quite the same trajectory, starting out at 10-0 as they did. Eli sits alone in Giants lore as the franchise savior and iron man.

Eli sat down with WFAN’s Brandon Tierney and Sal Licata to talk all things Giants. He discussed the lean years for the franchise after reaching championship heights.

“It was tough. It was not just tough for me, for a lot of people,” Manning said. “Obviously the ownership, because with the Maras and the Tisches, they’re so committed. That was a big reason [for] wanting to come to the Giants, that they’re 100% committed to putting a championship-caliber team out there every year.” He said that as a player, you want to play well for both the Giants’ owners and the fans, and losing can wear on you.

About his own tenure with the Giants, Eli called it “unfortunate” that things didn’t end as well as they started, but he comforts himself thinking about the good years.

On Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll

Tierney asked Eli if he felt right away that Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll were the right guys to lead the organization back to success. Although Eli said he would defer to the current players on that question, he did get an immediate sense from talking to the holdovers from his time, such as Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Daniel Jones, and Dexter Lawrence, that things were a lot better. He said they were excited about what was going on.

“I think you see it now, just watching practices, having been around Daniel a little bit, and just his comfort level in this offense and what’s expected of him. They’re getting coached, and he wants to be coached,” Eli pointed out. “You screw up, you know Daboll is coming after you, and he’s going to rip you a good one. And that’s how coaches should be: you mess up, you want to be coached, you want to be corrected, but you want to feel that you’re on the same page with everybody and there’s a respect, and I think they had that.”

On playing in New York

Eli remarked that the No. 1 thing a player needs to succeed in New York is being tough, especially mentally. He explained that the key is not to let one bad game spiral into many more and one bad season to lead to more failure due to low morale. He complimented Jones’ ability to withstand the tough times despite turnover issues and to fix those problems. He also spoke highly of Jones’ accountability when things go wrong and his pushing the credit to his teammates when the team is successful.

At the same time, Eli asserted that the team needs to stay hungry as a whole. Though the Giants had a good year, it wasn’t a great one, and they need to catch up to the Eagles.

On his success with the Giants

About his own experience as the Giants’ quarterback, Eli cautioned that despite his success, the margin between the acclaim he now receives and having been booted out of town was razor-thin. He highlighted the 2007 season trajectory as a time when things could have gone the other way.

When the team was 0-2, people were calling for both his and Tom Coughlin’s heads. Even after they went on a six-game winning streak, they played the second-to-last game of the season needing to win one of the next two to make the playoffs. Playing Buffalo with the undefeated Patriots looming ahead, they were down at halftime before coming back to win.

Although that season ended with a Lombardi trophy, Eli looked back at how a game or two made the difference in his entire career, calling it “a little crazy.”

On expectations for Jones

Tierney commented that after a big contract, the expectations for Jones are naturally a lot higher. Therefore, for Jones to be hailed as a success, he needs to throw more than 15 touchdowns. Eli agreed with that sentiment and noted that Jones knows it, too.

At the same time, Eli warned that it’s important for Jones not to force things or expect to throw three touchdowns a game. He observed that Jones’ rushing yards and rushing touchdowns are also important and that it’s about scoring points. “It’s not about throwing touchdowns, it’s about getting touchdowns,” he said.

Eli also acknowledged that the Giants needed to add some weapons on the outside to increase big plays, and he said that they’ve done that.

On the current Giants’ identity

When asked what the identity of the current Giants team will be, Eli opined that they need to find out. He stated that it’s not something you can find out in training camp but you need to form it.

Eli pointed to his own 2007 team that shaped its identity as road warriors and comeback artists, which was not present at the beginning of the season. They’d have loved to get a lead, Eli said, but it just didn’t happen that way. He compared them to the 2022 Giants in that respect, finding a way to win even if it wasn’t pretty and coming back from fourth-quarter deficits to win close games.

On escaping sacks for the ‘Helmet Catch’

Always the jokester, Eli explained how he escaped from multiple would-be sacks to throw the ball to David Tyree: “It’s just these big, powerful quads I have. I’m going side-to-side with Saquon, so similar, just the heavy squats, the power cleats, the mobility, just an athlete, basically.”

Although Eli admitted that his offensive line didn’t do a good job protecting him initially, he credited them with blocking the defenders off of him. He then sheepishly described his lob to Tyree as “throw[ing] a ball down the middle of the field around four defenders and one receiver. Usually doesn’t work out real well, but it worked out well that time.”

Tierney commented that in today’s NFL, the referees probably would have blown that play dead, calling Manning in the grasp. Eli disagreed, saying that he didn’t think that would happen in a Super Bowl, even now. Although he said the referee was getting ready to blow it dead and bringing up his whistle as he was thinking about it, he called it a “good no-call.”

A completely unbiased observation, obviously.

On Peyton’s ‘Manningcast’ drinking

Fans of the Manningcast during Monday Night Football may be aware that Peyton Manning likes to imbibe something or other throughout the game. Tierney set the over/under on those drinks at 4.5. Eli chuckled.

“It’s a good question, he’s got his little solo cup there. I don’t know what’s in there, what he’s drinking. He often says he’s funnier after a few drinks,” he mused. “Whatever that means, I don’t know what ‘a few’ means exactly to him, there’s a definition of a few. With Peyton, he thinks he’s a little funnier and relaxes a bit after a few pops.”

On his personality

Eli said that he’s having a lot of fun on ‘The Eli Manning Show,’ which he runs with Shaun O’Hara, his former center who is one of his best friends. He commented that his rapport with O’Hara is similar to what he has with Peyton where neither one is sensitive, so they take shots at each other.

Licata asked Eli what he would have felt about ‘Hard Knocks.’ Eli immediately shook his head. Licata rejoined that Eli would’ve been funny on the show, although Tierney pushed back on that. Eli demurred.

“When I was playing, no,” he said. “I just think the cameras around all the time, it can’t be great for the camaraderie or just the looseness in the locker room, ‘is this on tape, is this not on tape,’ when are you on air, when are you off air, where are these cameras. I think it would just be awkward with the cameras around that much.”

When Licata asked about the pranks that Eli used to pull, the quarterback answered that he wouldn’t have done that in front of the cameras “Because they would’ve known it was me. Part of the pranks was...” He then backed off laughingly, “I never did any pranks.”

On the Jets’ hype

Tierney praised Eli’s even keel during his time with the Giants, how his calmness and imperturbability helped him ignore the media narratives about him. He asked if all the hype surrounding the Jets is a motivation for the Giants, who had a more successful 2022 season. Eli said that it could be, but the main thing is to prove it on the field. He mentioned that staying out of the headlines in New York is probably a good thing. Still, he said that it’s exciting when the New York teams are playing well.

Eli pointed to the Yankees as his favorite New York team besides the Giants. He added that Derek Jeter was his role model for his performance and handling of both the media and his private life. He laughed about the Knicks’ poor record during his first 15+ years in the Big Apple, comparing it to the Yankees’ championship in 2009.

Overall, Eli Manning continues to be a steady presence in the NFL world, but he belongs, first and foremost, with the New York Giants.