There’s things Eli Manning misses about playing in the NFL—training camp, the locker room, and of course celebrating wins with teammates, coaches and staff on the bus ride or flight home.
“I miss the guys—they’re like family to me,” said Manning, a two-time Super Bowl champion who spent 16 seasons with the New York Giants before retiring on January 24, 2020.
With that being said, there’s plenty Manning doesn’t miss.
“I don’t miss waking up the Monday morning after a loss thinking about a bad throw or the aches and pains,” he said. “The losses become harder and harder to overcome and it takes a toll on you and the family. It’s nice to be able to turn the TV off after a game and carry on with my day and sleep easy that night. I had a great run and great memories but I needed to do what was best for me and my family.
“I think I timed my retirement well and got out at the right time so I’m at peace with my decision.”
Unfortunately for the Giants, losses have become more commonplace and Monday mornings have gotten more difficult. New York has the worst record in the NFL over the past three-plus seasons at 12-39, trailing the Cleveland Browns—who even went 0-16 in 2017-18—and Cincinnati Bengals (15-35-1), and New York Jets (16-35).
The Giants fell to 0-3 this season after a 36-9 beatdown from the San Francisco 49ers, who had been decimated with injuries. New York, 12.5-point underdogs against the Los Angeles Rams on October 4, has just two wins in its past 15 games dating back to last October.
The situation went from bad to worse after running back Saquon Barkley tore his ACL in the 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears on September 20; he was placed on injured reserve and is out for the season.
“It’s certainly rough and I really feel for Saquon and the rest of the team,” said Manning, who was the starting quarterback during Barkley’s 2018 Rookie of the Year season. “Unfortunately, injuries are common in this sport but you’ve got to find ways to bounce back individually and as a team. I’m rooting for them to pull through, but this is an opportunity for the other guys to step up. The only way to get past it is to start winning games. Getting back on the practice field, making adjustments and preparing to compete—that can solve problems and give them some temporary relief.”
With the Giants’ top playmaker sidelined for the rest of the season, more pressure falls on second-year quarterback Daniel Jones.
Jones, who took over the starting role from Manning on September 22, 2019, has thrown for 699 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions (two fumbles lost) so far this year. Jones has 20 fumbles through his first 16 career games, trailing only Tony Banks (24) for most in that span in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
“As a quarterback, you put a lot of the team’s success and failures on your shoulders because even the smallest mistakes can be big mistakes for the team,” Manning said. “He’ll probably feel more pressure since Saquon was big for their running game, and a player like that is a big help to a young quarterback. Like the rest of the team, it’s just something he’ll have to play through and learn as he goes. He has a good head on his shoulders and he’s good at not letting the pressure get to him.
“He’s done a great job so far this season despite the challenges of a new coach and offensive coordinator and not having the [preseason] to learn the plays and learn the offense, but these are challenges the rest of the offense has, too. Daniel’s passionate about football and is willing to put in the work to get better.
“I’m rooting for him, as a friend and former teammate, and want him to play well. I know once he gets in the groove he’ll be a terrific player and win the Giants a lot of games.”
While Jones tries to right the ship in New York, Manning is sitting back and enjoying retirement. He’s focused on his fantasy football team, playing tennis with his wife, and is spending a lot of time with his family, while taking his time to weigh what he’ll do next.
He obviously still keeps tabs on Big Blue. Manning and former teammate Shaun O’Hara hosted a “home-gate” prior to Week 2’s loss to Chicago which drew more than 563,000 fans via Zoom and a Twitter livestream. Manning is also promoting Verizon Media’s “Watch Together” co-viewing experience in partnership with the NFL via the Yahoo Sports app that allows users to watch a synchronized live stream of games while video chatting with friends and family, though he hasn’t watched a game virtually with Peyton, Cooper or their father just yet.
Manning said apps and virtual experiences like these are the closest fans can get to recreate some of the experience of attending a game in person, which has been limited or eliminated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I think the last time I watched a game with Peyton, Cooper and my dad was close to 30 years ago so it has been a while,” Eli said. “We’ve been at Super Bowls together, but someone was always playing so we weren’t really watching together. I don’t know if we could agree on who to watch though—I’d want to watch the Giants, Peyton would want to watch the Colts or Broncos, Coop would want Canadian football or something like that, and my dad would pick the Saints games.”