April 24th, 2004: Eli Manning is selected first overall by the San Diego Chargers in that year’s NFL Draft. Except he doesn’t want that. In an unprecedented move, the latest in the impressive line of Manning signal-callers gets traded to the New York Giants in exchange for a host of picks, and their first-round selection, Philip Rivers.
From December 12th of that year, Manning has been an ever-present under centre.
He is the face of the franchise – albeit slowly giving way to his favourite target, Odell Beckham Jr. But it’s about more than that. It’s about legacy. Football legacy isn’t something closely attributed to franchises given how easily they seem to move about cities at will.
But the Giants have tradition. They have golden moments that they embrace – and those memories are enshrined forever.
Eli Manning is the man who led them to two Vince Lombardi trophies and should be respected accordingly. The need to win is cited as head coach Ben McAdoo’s reason for benching him – breaking his consecutive start streak of 222 games. McAdoo will lose his job because of this; not only because it’s a huge, pointless showing of authority from him – but because it makes absolutely no sense to do so from a football perspective.
The Raiders lack an internal pass rush. That’s the only real reason Geno Smith could possibly be selected to start – so he could escape the pocket and extend plays for wide receivers. But, hang on – Jack Del Rio’s squad can’t cover.
Maybe exploit that by having a veteran dissect the coverages at the line of scrimmage?
Speaking of the line of scrimmage – the investment into it over the years has been lacking, and even when they selected Ereck Flowers ninth overall in 2015, he was a relative bust. Manning lost Odell Beckham. The only resemblance of a receiver he has at his disposal right now is Sterling Shepard. Evan Engram was a good selection in this year’s draft, but he doesn’t stay on the field for every snap and the offence isn’t built around his strengths anywhere near enough. What’s Manning to do? Be punished, apparently.
I think, technically, Manning is the worst of the three quarterbacks taken in 2004. None of that matters, though – as Philip Rivers’ place in the Hall of Fame is debated because he doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring. Well, this quarterback has two. His unorthodox yet silently superb execution in both games were what carried that franchise to their crowning glories – with a little help from David Tyree’s helmet.
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The organisation has four Super Bowls. Images from those games are littered across the team’s offices. They’re probably littered across Ben McAdoo’s office. Half of that commemorative decoration is of an icon who’s giving up his job on Sunday; commanded to do so by a man who will surely lose his because of it.
There are more problems in East Rutherford than the quarterback position. One of them is an obnoxious head coach. It feels sweet that one of the last things he’ll see before he walks out of the building for the final time, will be Eli hoisting Vince Lombardi over his head.