Interstate of Green
Is Eli Manning Done? A Synopsis by Giants Fan Vincent Zahler
"I guess that's what happens in the end, you start thinking about the beginning" -Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Being a Giants fan growing up in Eagles territory hasn't always been easy. Especially from 2001-2004(my high school years) when the Eagles easily dominated the Giants as well as the rest of division. At the time, the Giants and Eagles seemed to be heading in two very different directions. The Eagles were annually playing for a conference title and as they reached their peak with a dramatic Super Bowl appearance, the Giants had back to back seasons with eight game losing streaks. Then came a glimmer of hope for the future. That hope came in the form of a player in which the at time, GM Ernie Accorsi would trade the farm in the 2004 draft to acquire. His name was Elisha Nelson Manning. The younger brother of the already superstar quarterback, Peyton Manning. Lofty comparisons would ensue. Accorsi would go on the claim that it was the proudest move of his career. On November 21st 2004, a struggling eventual Hall of Fame Kurt Warner was benched and Eli Manning would have his first career start and not since has another player started at quarterback for New York Giants. It didn't start out pretty however. Eli would lose his first six starts. He would end up having an historically poor beginning to his career. Many fans and media were already calling him a bust. I, as a young hopeful fan, wasn't deterred. I graciously took the expected heckling for proudly sporting an Eli jersey even prior to his first NFL win. Something told me to have faith. This was confirmed in his 7th start. Down 24-21 to the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale with just 1:49 left on the clock, it looked like Eli Manning would not get a single win his rookie season. Suddenly, Eli Manning orchestrates a perfect textbook two minute drill ending in a game winning score. The first of 30 4th quarter comebacks(tied for 7th all time). A star was born. From that point on, the Giants and their fans were strapped into a roller coaster dubbed the Eli Manning Experience. A roller coaster that reached the highest peaks and the lowest drops. Leading the league in turnovers and losing seasons to comeback wins for championship titles. One never knew what to expect with Eli Manning at the helm. All the while carrying himself off the field in a manner that would make even the most ardent Eli detractor approve. I pride myself in that even at the lowest points of Eli's career, I backed him. Even when it looked bleak, one could hang their hat on the fact that no matter how dark it became, Eli could somehow pull it out. Despite injuries that would sideline anyone else and at times a level of play that would get most benched, there always was some sense optimism. You could never turn off the Giants. Even when the outcome appeared obvious since Eli could come alive at anytime and lead yet another 4th quarter comeback win. Even in 2013 when the Giants started 0-6, and Eli was leading the league by mile in turnovers, there was thought in the minds of many that due to #10, things would turnaround. Sadly, all good things come to an end. We could very well be at the end of this exhilarating ride. It's come to the point where there is the inconvenient truth that Eli will be 37 before the playoffs begin and the magic that made him the player he was, has suddenly diminished. We're no longer seeing the late game heroics. Even more concerning, is that we're not seeing his teammates jump to his defense as they once did. What we're seeing now is a quarterback who once took brutal hits in stride, backing away and looking uncomfortable and gunshy more often than not. Many bring up the valid argument that his offensive line has not been adequate. While that is true, outside of a few seasons between the Super Bowl wins, Eli never really had a great line. Especially at left tackle, where just once in his career was someone named to a pro bowl at the position. This is relatively the same line that protected Eli in his 2015 resurgence just now with more experience and more weapons at his disposal. Surely, the line can't be all to blame for the clear downfall of Eli. Eli simply is on the decline and there is no getting around it. For the first time ever, even I find myself increasingly unable to see Eli finding light at the end of the tunnel. This is the first time that as a fan, I'm reminiscing the beginning as the notion that we're rapidly approaching the end is setting in. I cannot speak for everyone, but personally for me at least, when I have the feeling that something is coming to an end, whether its associated with work, relationships, etc thoughts of the beginning fill my mind. This has occurred regarding the Eli Manning era, hence the reminiscing. If we really are approaching the end, it was well worth the ride. It was especially enjoyable to first hand, witness Eli repeatedly silence his harshest critics in enemy(Eagles) territory by hoisting the Lombardi trophy not once, but twice. It made all the heckling I received from wearing his jersey early in his career as well as throughout, all the more satisfying. The day will come sooner rather than later, that the roller coaster that is the Eli Manning Experience will come to a halt. When that day comes, everyone, including the fans and media who have constantly called for his removal from the starting quarterback position at every mishap, will sorely miss him leading the Giants on the field every game day. I know I will.