Thank you Eli, for giving Giants fans a hell of a ride

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By: James Campbell

Earnhardt. Griffey. Curry. Each name carries history in the world of sports in its own right.

None resonate quite as much as the Manning family. Football is part of the family heritage, and for good reason. While Archie wasn’t the absolute greatest, he is a namesake in New Orleans.

Peyton was one of the best ever to step onto the gridiron, setting numerous records (only to be topped by Drew Brees. Guess New Orleans likes to keep records…)

Then there’s Eli. He amassed over 10,000 yards and 81 touchdowns in his four year at Ole Miss, which isn’t anything to sneeze at. He was drafted #1 overall in the 2004 NFL Draft by the- then San Diego Chargers. Problem was that Eli didn’t want to play in San Diego.

And after the Giants drafted Phillip Rivers at #4, the two teams made the trade that brought Manning to New York.

Eli didn’t have quite the strong start in his career. His first start in his rookie season didn’t come until November, against the Atlanta Falcons. He scored his first NFL touchdown on a six-yard pass to tight end Jeremy Shockey, which is interesting since Peyton’s first NFL touchdown was also a six-yard pass.

His first multi-touchdown game ended in a close one to Ben Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers in the same season. He would finish the season with six TDs, nine INTs, and a little over 1,000 yards passing that year.

Eli’s first full season as Big Blue’s starter was solid, as he led the Giants to an 11-5 record and an NFC East title. He finished with 24 TDs and 17 INTs along with 3,762 yards.

In 2007, Eli helped pull off one of the most incredible Super Bowl upsets. His season numbers weren’t spectacular, with 23 TDs and 20 INTs. When it mattered the most though, Eli came through.

During the miraculous run in the playoffs, he threw only 1 INT (which happened in the Super Bowl itself). Of course, the most famous play of Eli’s career happened in the fourth quarter, where he pulled out an amazing escape act and threw a 32-yard bomb that became “The Helmet Catch” to David Tyree, ending New England’s chance of a 19-0 season.

Fellow Giants fans will certainly remember the 2011 campaign. While Manning seemed to be
average in the first three quarters, he came alive in the fourth, when the Giants needed him most.

He would orchestrate six game-winning drives, including a critical fourth quarter drive in Week 13 in Dallas to keep the G-Men’s playoff hopes alive. He was able to get the decisive win Week 17 in New York against the Cowboys again to get the Giants into the playoffs and win his second Super Bowl ring.

The rest of Eli’s career isn’t much to remember, sadly. The Giants only made the playoffs one more time in 2016, only to get pummeled 38-13 in Green Bay. Eli always had the support of Giants fans, however. When Ben McAdoo benched him after the Giants started out 2-9 in 2017, fans, including myself, were outraged. How can you say with a straight face that Geno Smith was the best player to get you the win!?!

The benching also ended the starting streak at 210 games, second only to Brett Favre, who started 297 straight games. While it’s hard to say that Eli would have ultimately broken the record without getting benched, it certainly was a ridiculous way for the streak to end.

While many will look at Eli Manning as a quarterback, we should also remember the type of man he was off the field as well. Eli has helped raise funds for “Tackle Kids Cancer”, which helps raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey.

Since its founding in September 2015, the fundraiser has brought in over $4.5 million, no doubt with help from Eli himself. He was the co-winner of the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, sharing the honor with Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Eli also had a clean reputation during his time on the gridiron. He carries himself with class and respect, which sadly is lacking today as a whole.

There will no doubt be ongoing debate as to whether Eli Manning will be called to Canton, Ohio, to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yes, he won two Super Bowls, beating arguably the greatest quarterback in history, Tom Brady, both times. Yes, he had some incredible runs, and came in the clutch in 2011 time and time again.

Unfortunately, his final record of 117-117 doesn’t jump out as H.O.F worthy. He also led the league in INTs three times in his career (2007, 2010 and 2013). It should be noted, however, that he also has the record for most passing yards in a postseason at 1,219
yards, set in 2011.

In any case, Eli Manning should be congratulated on one heck of a career. He may not have the most wins or most rings in NFL history, but he played the game his way.

As a Giants fan, thank you, Eli, for giving us one hell of a ride.

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