For now, it is little more than a suggestion from armchair general managers — some of them in the media — who believe it might be time for the Giants to trade Eli Manning.
The logic goes something like this: At age 36 and on the back end of a likely Hall of Fame career, Manning is playing for an 0-5 team going nowhere. Given that he has some trade value, the Giants should consider sending him to a team such as the Jaguars, who might be a quality quarterback away from becoming a playoff contender.
Why Jacksonville? Look no further than the team’s executive vice president of football operations, Tom Coughlin. He and Manning combined for two Super Bowl titles, and with the Oct. 31 trade deadline approaching, the former Giants coach might at least consider the possibility.
Manning, however, wants no part of it. Not this trade, not any trade.
“I’ve not heard [the Jacksonville speculation], I’ve not felt it, not thinking about it,” Manning told Newsday on Thursday. “I don’t want to play anywhere else. I love this team, love this organization, and I want to be here.”
Until the end of his career?
“Sure,” he said. “Always. Yes. Yes. Yes.”
Even though the Giants’ season has descended into chaos, nothing that has happened, and nothing that will happen, can sway Manning’s unshakable loyalty to the team that traded for him on draft day in 2004.
Asked what it would mean to start and end his career with the same team, Manning said it’s the only thing he’s ever wanted.
“That’s always the goal,” he said. “You always want to come to a place and make an impact, stay in one spot, and I think that’s always the mindset. I hope that will be the case. Obviously, in this league, things can change, and if we have to make decisions, we’ll figure it out.”
The Giants have shown no willingness to even entertain the thought of a trade, and it’s highly unlikely that will change in the near future. Manning is signed through the 2019 season, when he’ll be 38, and has expressed a desire to play even longer. He hopes it will be with the Giants but knows nothing is guaranteed, even for the most durable quarterback in today’s game.
Manning has started 204 straight regular-season games and needs only five consecutive starts to surpass older brother Peyton for second place behind Brett Favre, who started 297 straight games for the Packers, Jets and Vikings.
But Eli needs no reminders that things can change in a hurry. Peyton would have loved to play his entire career with the Colts, but three neck surgeries in 15 months led to his release in 2012. He played his final four years with the Broncos, culminating with a Super Bowl championship after the 2015 season. Peyton was honored last Sunday with the unveiling of a statue in his likeness that now stands in front of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, but he would have much preferred to be a Colt from start to finish.
Eli has the chance to realize his dream, although there’s no telling whether circumstances will change. The Giants drafted Davis Webb in the third round this year, and if they continue to lose, they might be in line for a top-five pick and a chance to draft a blue-chip passer.
“The Giants gotta do what they gotta do,” Manning said of the possibility of another high-round quarterback coming in next year. “My job is to play quarterback and win games. It starts this week. My focus is on having a great game versus the Broncos, and trying to get a win, and do that every week until I’m told differently.”
Even with the Giants’ playoff chances rapidly dwindling — realistically, they’ve got no shot — Manning insists he’s not demoralized.
“Hey, it hasn’t been the way we wanted it,” he said. “But the only way we can feel good about what we’re doing is playing better and winning games. We’ve got that opportunity, and I’m going to make the most of every opportunity to go play this game.”
He’ll continue playing for the only team he wants to be on — unless and until the Giants say otherwise.
As far as teammate Justin Pugh is concerned, it’s a no-brainer.
“There’s no question about that,” Pugh said. “It’s been 14 years. It’s Eli Manning, and Eli Manning is New York Giants football.”