Eli Manning has had an extremely productive career. Since being chosen first overall in the 2004 draft, he has quarterbacked the Giants to 116 regular-season victories and, more importantly, to two successful Super Bowl runs in which he earned Most Valuable Player awards. He has nothing left to prove, as all and sundry will attest — except, that is, to himself. Today, he will start for the first time since being benched in Week 3, and he aims to show that he still belongs in the National Football League. That he will be trekking to Lincoln Financial Field exactly a year to the day he last claimed a win serves as added motivation.
Manning is 38; make that an old 38 in the face of modern-day offenses. Yet, he doesn’t consider himself a candidate for the rocking chair. He accepted his demotion earlier this year, but with reluctance, and he firmly believes he still deserves to be front and center, holding the cowhide and determining the outcomes of set-tos. The Giants don’t, and they’re leaning on him today only because rookie QB Daniel Jones needs to convalesce from an ankle sprain. And they’re bent on getting the latter back on the field as soon as they can. Never mind that they’ve lost their last eight outings.
The Giants aren’t looking back. To be sure, neither is Manning. He’s in the last year of his contract with them, but he refuses to say he won’t be returning next season, and if in another uniform. “You never want to make decisions about the future while you’re living in the present,” he argued. Meanwhile, he’s keen on using his latest opportunity as an audition. He’ll be handicapped, and not just because of his age; in attempting to exceed his pedestrian numbers from his two previous appearances this season, he will be without tight ends Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison.
Then again, Manning seems to work best as an underdog. He has a long history of silencing critics by drawing from his unshakable confidence. He’ll look to do so again today. Whether or not he manages to live up to his heightened expectations is anybody’s guess. What will be clear from the outset is this: If he fails, it won’t be for lack of trying.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.