EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Eli Manning is heading into the final game of the season facing uncertainty for the first time in his New York Giants career.
With the Giants reeling with a 2-13 record, there are major changes coming, and the two-time Super Bowl MVP who is finishing his 14th season could be one of them.
Coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were fired earlier this month. The interview process for a new GM has started and there will be new faces on the roster next season.
Manning avoided saying much about 2018 and the uncertainty he faces in a year. There have been plenty of negatives this year: The franchise set a record for losses in a season; saw most of its top receivers sidelined by injuries; then embarrassed itself by benching Manning at the start of the month.
That decision was poorly handled and led to the firings of McAdoo and Reese on Dec. 4.
“Well, obviously just want to try to go out there in the last game and try to play well, move the ball, see if we can get a win and end on a positive note,” Manning said. “Obviously, everybody knows it’s been a tough season. It’s been tough for everybody, tough on the players, coaches, ownership, management, fans. Obviously we’ve been out of the playoff picture for a few weeks now, but we’ve just got to have a good week of preparation, go out there and try to play at a high level.”
In his previous 13 seasons, there has never been a question whether Manning would be back running the offense. This year is different.
“Right now, I’m just worried about this last game and then kind of go from there and see what happens,” Manning said.
Manning said the thought of this being his final game for the Giants has never entered his mind.
“I think in football you never know when your last game is going to be,” he said. “It’s a physical game, so you always treat it like it’s your last. So, I’m just going about it, try to play well and move the offense.”
A loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday will lock up the No. 2 overall pick for the Giants in a draft loaded with quarterback talent, including possibly the top two picks overall.
While co-owner John Mara has said he would like Manning to finish his career here, the team could benefit from either a trade or simply releasing him after June 1.
Manning has a $22.2 million cap hit next season, with a $10.5 million base salary and a $5 million roster bonus due in early March. Cutting Manijng, who turns 37 on Jan. 3, before June 1 would save the team $3 million. Doing it after June 1 would save it roughly $10 million.
Manning made it clear retirement is not in the cards now.
“I’m sure I’ll have other opportunities to be in that stadium down the road, if it is the last one,” said the man who has been the face of the franchise since being acquired in a draft day deal with San Diego in 2004. He was the No.1 pick overall and the Giants sent a package that included Philip Rivers, whom New York took with the No. 4 overall spot, and draft picks.
Manning used the word tough several times in describing the season.
“Got off to a slow start and then we just lost some heartbreakers early in the year,” Manning said. “Did some good things and then just in final minutes, fourth quarter, just lost some games that we could’ve won. And then just kind of hit the injury bug, and like I said, it’s been difficult and frustrating and tough. But we kind of hung in there and guys have competed and fought the whole time.”
Manning does not expect to be consulted on the choice of the next coach, saying the new general manager will handle that.
Manning holds almost every franchise passing record. He led the team to Super Bowl titles after the 2007 and ’11, beating the Patriots twice for the ring. He had started 210 consecutive games before being benched, second most in league history.
The only negative has been the Giants’ inability to get to the playoffs since the win over New England in February 2012. New York missed the playoffs the next four seasons, got there as a wild card (11-5) last year in McAdoo’s first season, and then fell apart this season.
“Hey, it’s tough to get to Super Bowls, tough to win them,” Manning said. “No, I don’t have regrets. We’ve worked hard, we’ve competed. Last year made the playoffs, didn’t win in the playoffs. So, I don’t feel regret in any way.”