Eli Manning is getting ready for his 13th NFL season, and during that time he has seen plenty of friends, teammates and opponents walk away from the game.
“But I think when you see your big brother, it probably hits a little bit stronger,” Eli Manning said Monday, the day that Peyton Manning officially announced his retirement. “Just a reminder that you want to take full advantage of it and have no regrets about your career.”
Now that he is the only member of his family in the NFL for the first time, Eli will have to carry the Manning mantle. It will be, he said in an interview with Giants.com, different.
“I’ll definitely miss him playing football,” Eli said. “I’ll miss getting home after a 1 o’clock game and watching his afternoon game on TV with friends and family; hopefully both of us get to celebrate wins. I’ll miss watching him play, I’ll miss talking football during the week or talking about a common opponent that we might be playing, or just calling him on the bus when we both had away games. We’d talk about how their game went or the circumstances of the game or how it played out, or a funny thing that happened. I’ll definitely miss some of those things.
“But I am happy for him. I am happy, obviously, for him winning a championship and getting to go out being happy about how the last season ended. You don’t get to have those feelings very often, to end your football career on a positive note. It is special. I am happy that he was able to kind of go out on his own terms. I know it was tough for him, but I’m proud of the way he handled today. I thought he did a great job up there in his speech. You could see that it’s going to be tough for him, but I think it is good timing and he’s getting out at the right time.”
The two brothers have faced each other only twice in their careers, with Peyton Manning’s Colts winning both games. Both of them are two-time Super Bowl champions.
Peyton, though, holds dozens of NFL records, including touchdown passes for a single season (55 in 2013) and career (539), and passing yards for a season (5,477 in 2013) and career (71,940).
“The numbers are incredible,” Eli said. “You throw yardage out, you don’t even know what to compare it to. You don’t know what it all means. I think when you see seven years in a row of having 12 wins in a season, that’s called dominating a league, and not just for a short period of time. That’s a long time, and that’s a lot of games to win and consistently doing that — that’s an impressive feat. Being able to go to a new organization and win a division four years in a row and have the most wins. It’s the wins. Winning football games year in and year out, that’s tough to do. With free agency and new players and with different coaches and different things going on, to consistently have your team winning that many games, that’s impressive.”
Eli was not able to attend the retirement news conference in Denver on Monday because of a stomach bug.
Eli suspected, as many did, that Super Bowl 50 might be Peyton’s final game. But he never asked Peyton about it. In fact, it wasn’t until recently when the two of them, their father, Archie, and their brother Cooper began planning a golf outing for this spring that Eli really knew for sure.
“My response was: ‘I guess I’m the only person who has spring practice to worry about this offseason,’ ” Eli said.
He was right.
“I guess I sensed that it was maybe coming to an end,” Eli said. “I didn’t know for sure, but I just saw that he wasn’t the same quarterback that he’s been, even from the year before. Hey, that can happen. You get injured and injuries can make a season tough. You get injuries and you’re 39, it’s just hard to recover. The recovery process takes longer, and has a greater impact on your play than when you’re 33 or 35. Just wasn’t quite the same from just being as productive as he’s been. I thought he gave it his all, and it was a good time and a good opportunity to get out.”
Peyton may be gone, but his legacy and his lessons will carry on with Eli.
“I’ve learned so much from him,” Eli said. “Seeing his preparation, and not during the season. I see his preparation in the offseason. I can’t even imagine what it’s like in-season. Just being with him in February or in March, just the determination to get a workout in every day. We may be on a trip, we may be on vacation or on a golf trip. It might be, ‘Hey, let’s get up at 5 in the morning to get a workout in.’ Or, ‘Let’s do it after the full day of work or after shooting a commercial, let’s do it at 7 p.m. Let’s find a field in this town. Let’s scope it out, talk to the people with the hotel so we can find a field to go throw. It’s a willingness and a determination to get your work in.
“Just the studying, thinking about what he wants to change, what he needs to improve on, having those goals that he wants to accomplish each year. Just the mind-set that he had about his job, about what he was trying to improve on. It was not a seasonal deal, it was a year-round commitment to it. You just saw the mind-set. This is the determination. This is the commitment that you have to have if you want to be a good player.”