East Rutherford, New Jersey: Eli Manning ended his 16-year NFL career on his own terms. He was classy, well-prepared and walked away as a New York Giant.
In a roughly seven-minute speech touched with a little humour and almost no emotion, the 39-year-old Manning officially ended his career on Friday at a packed news conference surrounded by his family, friends and former teammates and coaches and the two Super Bowls he delivered to the storied franchise.
“From the very first moment I did it my way,” said the low-key Manning, who followed in steps of Archie, his father, and Peyton, his brother, as NFL quarterbacks. “I could not be someone other than who I am. Undoubtedly, I would have made the fans, the media, even the front office more comfortable being a rah-rah guy.
“But that’s not me,” Manning said. “Ultimately I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learned to appreciate that. What they got was pure unadulterated Eli.”
The one person who was emotional was Giants co-owner John Mara, who said Manning would be inducted into the team’s ring of honour at MetLife Stadium next season and that the quarterback’s No. 10 jersey was being retired.
Mara’s eyes welled, recalling the final game of Manning’s rookie season in 2004. The kid from Ole Miss by way of New Orleans rallied the Giants to a win over Dallas. It was the last game the late co-owner Wellington Mara watched.
The holder of almost every Giants’ passing record, Manning said he had no immediate plans. He admitted he would miss the time with teammates, the game preparation, the fans and the beers in the back of the bus after wins. He plans to spend time with his family and friends reliving the positive memories, ignoring the bad times, enjoying himself and being an assistant coach on his daughter’s third-grade basketball team. A job with the Giants is a possibility, he said.
“For most of my life, people have called me easy. Believe me, this is nothing easy about today,” said Manning, who has been the face of the organisation with his play on the field and his charity work off it. Wellington Mara always said, “Once a Giant, Always a Giant.” For me, it’s “Only a Giant.”
Manning was No. 1 overall pick by the Chargers in 2004 but he was traded to the Giants on draft day. He became the Giants’ quarterback after nine games and started the next 222 games overall in a streak that ended in December 2017.