BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Eli Manning called the Giants’ decision to want him back for the 2018 season “a starting point.”
In reality, it’s the start of the end.
Yes, Manning will be on the roster when the next season begins. And yes, he’ll likely be under center for the first snaps in September. But the fact that the conversations over Manning’s future as a Giant had to be held at all, that there was ambiguity about his tenure with the team, that he is 37 years old, and that the second overall pick looms in late April with a bevy of potential future franchise quarterbacks available, all mean that Manning’s time is running out.
It’s something he is coming to grips with.
“I think in most people’s cases you think you’ll finish your career with that team, until you don’t,” Manning said on Friday at the Mall of America. “Hey, I have all intentions of finishing my career with the Giants. That’s what I want to do. But in football, like everything, it’s year by year. You see what happens and go from there.”
Manning spoke at an event for Courtyard and met a contest winner who will spend Saturday night in a suite-turned-hotel room at U.S. Bank Stadium before Super Bowl LII. Manning will be at the Super Bowl, too, part of a ceremony that honors all past winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, an award he won last year.
Manning has two years left on his contract with the Giants. He said he has no interest in initiating a departure from the team by waiving his no-trade clause. Not even, he said, if the Giants do draft a quarterback in the first round.
He also said he would be fine in the role of mentor to a young rookie quarterback . . . “in a sense.”
What does that mean? Well, it’s one thing to be a mentor, it’s another to be a backup mentor. Plus, Manning said, that’s not really his job.
“I would look at it as my job to prepare and compete and be ready to play each and every game and in that process you’re always talking football,” he said. “You’re always helping out the guys in the room. With Davis Webb this year, with Geno [Smith], you’re always helping them out. Nothing changes. It’s about doing your job but also helping the other guys around you and having great communication in the quarterback room.”
Brett Favre’s attitude toward Aaron Rodgers when the Packers drafted him has been well documented. Manning said he would not do that to any rookie coming for his job.
“I’m not going to be giving the cold shoulder to anybody,” he said. “Hey, whatever they draft, I’m fine with. It’s about me doing my job and that’s playing quarterback.”
Which is what the Giants’ decision to bring Manning back for 2018 is all about. It’s not an assurance of anything other than an opportunity. If Manning plays well and the Giants win, he’ll continue to play. If he and they do not, well . . .
And that’s why he called it a “starting point.”
“Now just keep going about my job and learn this offense,” he said of the next step. “I have to go out there and compete and win games, and so if I do that, everything else will work itself out.”