You know how those on the outside say things like “This is a big year for so-and-so” at the start of a new season, putting, if not heat, certainly attention on certain players?
Eli Manning, now an outsider (sort of), does that too.
“I’m excited for the team,” Manning said Sunday at MetLife Stadium, a few hours before kickoff of Giants-Broncos. “It’s a big year for a number of guys. It’s a big year for Saquon [Barkley]. It’s a big year for Daniel Jones. A lot of guys, Evan Engram, a lot of guys who have been close and been here for a while, trying to see if they can take those next steps forward or stay healthy.
“I’m excited to watch ‘em and cheer for ‘em and root for ‘em. I’m not here to judge and analyze, I’m not that person. I’m just here to be a fan and support them in any way I can.”
This Giants game was the first one for Manning as a spectator, something he was keenly aware of when he said, “It’s much more relaxed coming to the stadium today than the last 16 years when I was coming to play and coming to perform and game plan.”
Manning works for the Giants in a business operations and fan engagement role. As such, he helped cut the ribbon prior to the game on the newly named Hackensack Meridian Health Legacy Club. Manning, as a player and since retirement, has worked tirelessly on his “Tackle Kids Cancer” program to find a cure for pediatric cancer.
Manning, 40, was like everyone else during the 2020 pandemic season, watching from afar. Before this year’s season opener, he met with Giants sponsors before settling in to watch his former team with his wife, Abby, and their four children. He owns six season tickets.
“I hope to make this a tradition that we get to do on Sundays, growing up and watching the Giants and coming to see games,” Manning said.
His first order of the day: Not getting lost inside the inner corridors of the enormous stadium.
“I don’t know my way around the inside of the building,” he said. “This is all kind of foreign territory for me. I got to learn my way around a little bit.”
Manning did what he said he would do — take a year off — after retiring following the 2019 season as the franchise career passing leader in everything and as a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. He kicked back and tried to figure out what came next for him. What he learned about himself was not quite a shocking revelation.
“I really got to reflect and find out if there are other interests, other things I want to get involved in and want to pursue,” he said. “I kind of learned there’s not a whole lot of other things I’m interested in besides football. It’s what I know, it’s what I like, it’s what I can talk about, it’s something I like to study, keep up with it.”
To that end, Eli and his older brother, Peyton, will call ten “Monday Night Football” games this season on ESPN2, providing an alternate broadcast, featuring the expertise of the two former NFL quarterbacks. One of the games the Manning brothers will work is the Giants’ Nov. 1 Monday night game against the Chiefs in Kansas City. Eli and Peyton make their debuts Monday night with the Ravens-Raiders game.
“I can’t tell you every single player on both teams and know exactly who the left guard is and who the backup center is, I don’t know all those things,” Manning said. “It’s more like watching the film, watching the schemes of the offense and the defense and give you an inside look of, ‘Hey, what’s the coordinator yelling at [Derek] Carr about right now? What’s going on on the sideline? What’s going on at halftime or what’s the strategy of certain things? Why was this play successful or why was it not? Take you inside the ropes a little bit of football.”