The Giants may be the second-worst team in the NFL this season, but Eli Manning thinks it’s a short trip back to the top. And he hopes he can make that journey with the team.
The quarterback, preparing for the final game of the 2017 season and perhaps the final game of his 14-year career with the Giants, was on WFAN for his weekly radio appearance on Tuesday discussing his future and how it intertwines with the organization’s.
“I just don’t know,” he said of his own path. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t think anyone does.”
But he made it clear what he wishes will happen.
“This is what I love to do,” he said. “I love playing football, I love playing quarterback, and I want to continue to do it for the Giants. This is the only team I ever wanted to play for and I don’t want to change. I do understand how this season has gone and new people [are] coming in. If they want to make a change, then we’ll go down that road.”
The Giants will hire a new general manager and head coach in the coming weeks. They’ll also take a gander at the quarterbacks who will be available with what is likely to be the No. 2 overall selection in April’s draft. Meanwhile, Manning will turn 37 three days after the season ends. He has two seasons remaining on his contract and is due a sizable roster bonus in March.
All of which creates the uncertainty around Manning that he has avoided for the past decade and a half.
Retirement — at least by his own accord — seems to be the only option Manning isn’t considering.
“I think I still have good football in me,” he said. “I don’t want to stop playing football. This is all I want to do. I don’t have a backup plan, I don’t have something I’m looking forward to doing when this is done.”
He also said he’d be open to fighting for his job with a young hotshot quarterback, or even continuing to groom current rookie Davis Webb as he theoretically inches closer to Manning’s job.
“Whether they think Davis Webb is the quarterback or they get a quarterback and there’s competition, I can compete,” he said. “I don’t mind competition. I think that’s always part of it, you’re trying to compete for the starting job and get better. I do want to play. I don’t know how many more years I do have but I do think I can play at a high level and while I can, I want to be out there.”
The Giants have won just two games this season and fired their head coach and general manager in midseason. Manning, though, is convinced that a complete rebuild may not be necessary.
“It may be hard to realize or say it but I don’t think the Giants are far off,” he said. “We won 11 games the year before, played a lot of teams tough this year with injuries and losing guys. It was one of those years we lost a lot of tight games or games getting down to the fourth quarter and we just couldn’t quite compete just because we lost too many guys or just lost some heart-breakers . . . I don’t think it’s far off once you get some guys back.”
Once the season is over, Manning will begin what promises to be several months of hard conversations. Because this is all so new to him, he said he does not have a timeline in mind or any thoughts on the exact process. He did say he anticipates having a long talk with John Mara, the team’s co-owner. He’ll also talk with his father, Archie, and brother, Peyton.
“Both of them have been in similar type situations and have played for a team for a long time, both of them did leave,” Manning said. “They’ll be in the decision-making part of this.”
If it’s his decision alone, Manning seems as if his mind has already been made up.
“I don’t have desires to leave,” he said. “This is the city, the fans, the team that I love and know, and I don’t wish to leave . . . There’s no other team I want to play for. This is all I know. All I know is the New York Giants. I don’t take that for granted.
“It’s been a special place to be.”