They both hail from Louisiana (Manning was born in New Orleans while Bradshaw is from Shreveport). They are quarterbacks selected first overall in their respective NFL Drafts (Bradshaw—1970, Manning—2004). Both players won multiple Super Bowl MVPs despite a general perception that they were average QBs at best.
Daniel Jones was named the Giants’ starting quarterback on Tuesday, relegating Manning to the backup spot. Bradshaw, a FOX Sports analyst, spoke out in support of his fellow Louisianan, saying he would “pack my bags and I’d go home”.
“I understand why they did it, but it is a hard pill to swallow for Eli,” Bradshaw said in a Wednesday interview on FOX Business.
Bradshaw played his entire 15-year Hall of Fame career for the Pittsburgh Steelers, winning four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, XIV) in a six-year period. He knows exactly what Manning is going through. He was benched by Steelers head Chuck Noll at the start of the 1974 season in favor of Joe Gilliam, the first African-American quarterback to start in a season opener after the AFL-NFL merger.
Gilliam started the first six games of ‘74, going 4-1-1 before he was benched for ignoring both team rules and game plans. Noll became particularly incensed at Gilliam for what he perceived as an excessive number of pass plays. Bradshaw was reinserted as the starter in Week 7 and led the Steelers to victory in Super Bowl IX.
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In a 2000 interview with James Brown on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Bradshaw conceded that Noll “gave me my job back” and that “it’s not like I beat him (Gilliam) out”.
Bradshaw was in his fifth season when he was benched for the third-year Gilliam. Manning, who is in his 16th NFL season, is being replaced by the rookie Jones. Despite the difference in circumstances, Bradshaw still empathized with Manning’s situation.
“I hope Eli’s OK with it because he’s such a good dude,” Bradshaw said. “I hope he’s OK with it. I’m sure he isn’t. If they came to me in Pittsburgh after two weeks and they said, ‘Terry, we’re going to have to go with so-and-so’, I’d shake their hands, I’d pack my bags and I’d go home, because that would be a hard pill to swallow after all of that.”
Manning is the Giants’ all-time leader in completions, passing yards, and touchdowns. He led the Giants to victory in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. However, the team currently sits at 0-2 for the sixth time in seven seasons. The Giants have finished below .500 in five of the past six seasons, including a 2017 campaign that set a franchise record for losses (13).
Jones, the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, will make his first career start Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I feel for him, I truly do,” Bradshaw said. “That’s a horrible position to be in after so many great years as a Giant.”