Three weeks ago, Eli Manning walked off the field for what could be the final time as an NFL quarterback.
No. 10 doesn’t have a contract for 2020. Although his future plans have not been scrutinized as much as the player traded for him nearly 16 years ago or the quarterback he beat twice on the first Sunday in February, they do deserve a closer look.
Manning, who turned 39 on Jan. 3, could obviously retire. He could even do something unthinkable to die-hard New York Giants fans: suit up for another NFL franchise next season.
What we know Manning will not do is return to the Giants as Daniel Jones’ backup.
“I doubt it,” Manning said. “Backing up is not real fun.”
He spent 12 games holding the proverbial clipboard in 2019. Giants fans imagined a dream scenario in which Jones is being mentored by Manning, the greatest quarterback in franchise history, for another season. This was an extremely unlikely scenario…and that was before the Giants got a new head coach who is younger than Manning by a whopping 363 days.
Manning sat down with co-owner/team president John Mara at the team’s facility for what Mara referred to as “a nice, long talk”.
“I don’t think he’s fully decided yet what he wants to do,” Mara said. “And I’ve told him just take his time, think about it some more and then come back and see me again.”
In the weeks since the end of his season, Manning has settled into volunteering as his oldest daughter, Ava, competes in swimming. No. 10 serves as a timer and reportedly takes his responsibility very seriously. He also helps coach Ava’s youth basketball team where he jokingly said the parents can be harder to deal with than the media he faced as an NFL quarterback.
Manning has never missed a game to injury in 16 years, which is always a plus. If he decided to change teams, he wouldn’t be the first quarterback of an advanced age to do so. Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, and Johnny Unitas signed with other teams late in their careers as did Manning’s father and brother.
He certainly isn’t starving for money. Manning made $252.3 million in his career, the most in NFL history (if Tom Brady and Drew Brees don’t play in ’20). However, he has voiced a desire to play his entire career for the Giants in the past. There is also the growing possibility that the market for a player like Manning is minute or nonexistent, especially since he doesn’t want to be a backup.
Manning’s decision regarding his future will mostly likely not be made public for at least the next two weeks as the NFL has shifted its focus to Super Bowl LIV.
He will be in Miami for promotional appearances as a two-time Super Bowl MVP and this season’s recipient of the Bart Starr Award for the player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community”. There is no reason to believe he would purposely attempt to take any focus away from the game itself.
There are reports that those closest to Manning believe he will hang up his cleats after the Super Bowl. His father will have his back regardless.
“I’ll support Eli whatever he wants to do,” Archie Manning said. “He’s pretty good at thinking through things. He’ll do what’s right and he’ll do what’s best.”