Eli Manning arrived at the New York Athletic Club Thursday night prepared to take a handoff from the man who brought the quarterback to the Giants via a draft-day deal in 2004, an award named in honor of the former general manager — the Ernie Accorsi Humanitarian Award.
“I owe him a lot of thanks for bringing me to New York and putting together successful teams,” Manning said before the National Football Foundation New York City Chapter’s “Elite Eleven” Scholar-Athlete Award Dinner in Manhattan.
Now the charity-minded, two-time Super Bowl MVP is 36 and prepping for his 14th season. But Accorsi’s successor, Jerry Reese, said in January that the Giants “have started to think about who is the next quarterback and who is in line.”
Manning sounded unfazed about them looking for the eventual successor to his throne.
“Just part of it; it doesn’t bother me,” Manning said. “I’ve got to do my job.”
He said his game plan is to go “out there and have a big year.”
There are three years left on his contract. Asked if he wants to play beyond that, Manning said, “Just take it one year at a time. Right now, I feel great. I feel like I can continue to play, but from year to year in this league, you don’t know what’s going to happen, what can change . . . My body feels like I can play a number of years ahead.”
The Giants signed former Jets quarterback Geno Smith and could draft a possible long-term replacement this month. Manning indicated that wouldn’t be awkward for him.
“I’ve always had healthy relationships with all the quarterbacks,” Manning said. “We try to help each other out.”
Manning said Smith, coming off ACL surgery, is “a talented quarterback.” Could he be the successor?
“Listen, he hasn’t thrown a pass for us yet,” co-owner John Mara said at this event. “But we thought it was worthwhile signing him . . . Let’s put him on the field and see what he can do.”
Mara said he’s hopeful Manning will “be able to play for a lot of years.” Mara also said another former Jet, newcomer Brandon Marshall, is “what we need, I think, on our offense.” Manning, who worked out with the receiver and several other Giants at Duke this week, is enthused, too.
“I was excited when we made that acquisition, got Brandon,” Manning said. “Big target.”