HOUSTON — Ideally, Eli Manning would prefer to have been here on other business.
He was at the Super Bowl Friday making the rounds on Radio Row, attending news conferences as a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award and sharing stories of his previous Super Bowl victories.
Not fun. Not when he believed the Giants had a good shot at playing in this game.
“It’s hard,” Manning said. “Especially making the playoffs and then watching some of the playoff games. That’s the desire, and that want is definitely there.”
The Giants won 11 games before losing to the Packers in the wild-card round. It was their first taste of the postseason since the 2011 season, and Manning said he is confident the Giants are moving in a direction that soon will bring him back to the Super Bowl as a player rather than a pitchman.
“I think this year, we’ve made improvements and have gotten closer to our goal,” he said. “We’ll just go from there. We have to make sure we’re taking that next step to get better next year, but we’re heading in the right direction. I’m happy about that.”
Are the Giants eyeing Super Bowl LII?
“I think that’s always the goal,” he said. “Yes, I’m encouraged. You win 11 games, you’re doing good things. It doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed for next year. We have to work our tail off and we need guys to step up. We have to make additions and work to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to get there. I know the organization will do that and coach [Ben] McAdoo and my teammates are going to continue to work and make the improvements to make that happen.”
Manning said he was “definitely surprised” that the reason the Giants did not advance, or perform better all year, was the offense. A year after being ranked sixth in scoring, they averaged 19.4 points per game, ranked 26th, and never scored as many as 30 points in a game.
“With the personnel we had, I definitely thought we would be able to move the ball better and score more,” Manning said. “We’ve been doing it the last couple of years, but nothing carries over from the year before. You have to earn it, work at it and look to see how we can get better. There is no doubt that offensively, we didn’t play as well as we needed to for most of the season. We played well enough to win games, but we definitely have to find a way to be more explosive and put up more points offensively.”
Manning, 36, may be running out of time to win a third Super Bowl. General manager Jerry Reese recently said the team likely will start looking for an eventual replacement for him this offseason. Manning has three years remaining on his contract.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “If they want to draft a quarterback, then I understand the scenario. I know how old I am and I know that you have to prepare for the future and all of those things. Whatever they do, I know they’ll do what’s best for the Giants this season and in the future.”
A third title would be a heck of a way to fill out a career, a legacy and a Hall of Fame resume. But Manning said he’s not concerned with any of that stuff.
“It’s about each year,” he said. “That’s the goal. I want to get better, play well, win football games and I want to try and bring a championship to the organization, to the fans and teammates that have never been in that situation, that have never been to the Super Bowl or played in the Super Bowl or multiple playoff games. It’s about each year doing it because that’s the goal and the point of every year. Just going out there and playing your best.”