Twice in his career Mike Sullivan has seen Eli Manning lift his game substantially in the postseason and carry the Giants to a Super Bowl.
“You talk about a guy like Eli, he’s been there before and has the ability to play well, play at a high level when the games are on the line,” Sullivan, the offensive coordinator of the Giants, said on Thursday.
It’s a bit of a legend that Giants players have pointed to and referenced the past few weeks. Get Manning into the playoffs and he can take it from there. Somewhere inside him is a magical switch that flicks on when the postseason comes around.
Sullivan did his part to perpetuate that narrative, but he also cautioned that it is not just Manning who makes that transformation this time of the year. It is, he said, a two-way street.
“It’s hard for Eli, even if he’s playing lights-out football, if there aren’t other members of the offense that are doing their job,” Sullivan said. “You don’t want to sit here and say: ‘It’s not about the quarterback.’ The guy touches the ball every play, there’s a reason why those guys tend to get a lot of the criticism as well as a lot of the praise when things go well. I think it’s just a matter of the unit collectively having the precision, having the detail, eliminating the mental mistakes, the turnovers certainly. I think that will make everybody better and will raise his [Manning’s] game and he can help raise everybody else’s game.”
Sullivan was a member of the past two Super Bowl-winning teams. In 2007 he was the wide receivers coach and in 2011 he was Manning’s quarterbacks coach.
“I certainly have wonderful, happy memories of ‘Postseason Eli,’ ” Sullivan said. “Two times, two specific postseasons.”
But, he said, ‘Postseason Eli’ is a function of 11 people, not just one.
“Can he raise the level of the other players or is it a situation where he’s going to really depend upon them to get his game going? I think it really is a combination of both.”
Regardless of how it works, Sullivan said he has faith that it can happen again.
“I believe he is a great football player,” Sullivan said. “He’s someone that we depend upon and we have all the confidence in the world in him this Sunday and moving forward.”