Maybe it’s the tropical air of Hawaii that has Eli Manning so optimistic. Or the fact that he is joined at the Pro Bowl this week by three of his teammates. Whatever the reason, the Giants quarterback already is looking ahead to the 2016 season.
“We’re close,” he said on a conference call on Wednesday. “I think we have some pieces in place that I’m excited about.”
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That’s a different attitude than the last time we saw Manning, his chin trembling and his eyes tearing up as Tom Coughlin bid farewell to the team and absolved Manning in particular of having played any part in the head coaching change.
Since then, though, Manning has gotten his wish. The Giants hired his offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, to be the head coach and are promoting his quarterbacks coach and long-time advisor, Mike Sullivan, to be offensive coordinator.
“I think Coach McAdoo will do a great job,” Manning said in his first public comments since the hiring (he was quoted in a statement through the team when the move was announced). “He really does a wonderful job of holding court in the offensive meetings and getting his points across. I think he’ll continue to do a great job with the whole team. I’m excited for that. I think he’s ready. I think we have a great staff of coaches.”
The Giants finished 6-10 for a second straight year, had a third consecutive losing record, and have not made the postseason since the end of the 2011 campaign. That doesn’t sound like a lot to build on. But the Giants lost six of those 10 games by four points or fewer, eight of them by less than a touchdown.
The Panthers are in this year’s Super Bowl, and they had a losing record a season ago. That could be a rallying point for the Giants as they look to pull themselves from the malaise of the past four seasons.
Manning himself had one of the best seasons of his career with 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. At least two of the three teammates at the Pro Bowl with him — Odell Beckham Jr. and Domininque Rodgers-Cromartie — are expected back next season. Kicker Josh Brown is a free agent.
And yet, there are gaping holes in the roster that will need plugging through free agency and the draft.
“I know we always need some new people, some places where we need help,” Manning said. “But the Giants are always committed to doing whatever it takes to get the right people and get back to winning games and making playoffs and having that championship-caliber squad.”
How “close” they are to that remains to be seen.