Eli Manning was just a fourth-year starting quarterback in the NFL when he led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl the first time. Well, as a quarterback he certainly was a leader, though his name is probably not the first that comes to mind when thinking about the team that upset the New England Patriots.
Four years later, Manning and the Giants are back again. The quarterback ranked himself among the most elite signal-callers in the league prior to the season and took some heat for it, but he’s put together an impressive playoff run to quiet those skeptics. Still, he’s not calling the Giants “his team” at this point.
Eli Manning joined ESPN New York with The Michael Kay Show to discuss when he felt this team was good enough to make a Super Bowl run, taking 20 hits in a game, the rematch with the Patriots, comparing himself now to 2007, if he feels like he’s vindicated himself to people, feeling bad for Kyle Williams, why this isn’t “his team,” and what he’ll tell his younger teammates.
At what point did you think this team was good enough to go to the Super Bowl?:
“I think you always think a team has the ability, has the potential to make it to the Super Bowl. Is it always going to happen? No. A lot of things have to happen to make the Super Bowl. You’ve got to be playing great football, have to be doing things right and being smart and making plays. I knew there was a shot. We have talent on this team. We have guys who are committed to being good, it’s just, can we put it all together? … Guys have stepped up and we’re playing our best football.”
You got hit 20 times on Sunday. Did you feel it the day after?:
“There’s some weeks where you’re happy that you’ve got two weeks before the next game. There definitely was a little soreness, but just your typical bumps and bruises, nothing major. If we had to go practice today, I’d be out there ready to go. It was just one of those days.”
On going back to the Super Bowl again and having it come as a rematch with Tom Brady and the Patriots:
“It is a little strange that when we get another shot to go to the Super Bowl, we get the same opponent. … We’re excited about the opportunity of going back to the Super Bowl and you never really care who your opponent is, you’re just excited for your team and your opportunity. But we know we’re going against a good team. There’s a reason they’ve been — Tom Brady and their crew — to the Super Bowl five times.”
Amani Toomer says that you’re twice the quarterback now as you were back in 2007. Do you agree?:
“I think I’m obviously more experienced than I was in 2007. I have a better feel for the offense. Things have definitely become, I don’t know if easier is the word, but I’m definitely playing at a better level now. … As anyone can imagine, when you go from four years to eight years, you’d hope you’d get better in those four years of playing, the experience, and I think that’s the case.”
You called yourself an elite quarterback before the year started and took some heat. Do you feel like you have vindicated yourself?:
“That was never the goal, to try to vindicate or try to prove to anyone. I wanted to come out and have a good season this year, there’s no question. I worked hard this offseason getting prepared and through training camp and each week, just having the mindset of taking care of the football and working on your accuracy and getting your teammates prepared around you. … I wanted to have a good season, but it’s more proving to myself and playing to the potential that I knew I had.”
Is there any part of you that feels bad for Kyle Williams?:
“You know, you never want to see someone, whether it’s make a mistake or do something where they put their team in a spot to lose. You never want to see that in a person. You’d rather see guys step up and guys make plays instead of the other way around. You definitely feel for guys when it goes the other way. … It is a part of sports and a part of playing and I’ve been on the other side before. It’s a part of learning and growing up.”
Is this team more your team than the 2007 team?:
“I never got into the deal of saying, ‘Hey, this is my team.’ It’s a part of a team. It’s everybody’s team. It’s not one player’s team. It’s Coach Coughlin’s team, but we play together. I think my teammates have faith in me. … Am I one of the leaders? I’d say so. I’ve been here one of the longest on the team and have a great understanding of what’s going on, but so do a lot of other players. … It’s not one person’s team.”
What are you going to tell your young teammates about what next week is going to be like and what do you wish you would’ve known the first time around?:
“I think what I’ll tell guys is first off, we will practice this week. … I’ll tell guys this is a great time to get a lot of your preparation in. Prepare like you’re playing this Sunday. Everything you do in your film watching and kind of overload and really grind it out in your preparation. … Don’t treat it like a bye week where it’s kind of a little bit more relaxed. … Next week, when you leave Monday and go to Indianapolis, your whole schedule gets thrown off a little bit.”