Eli Manning: “It’s about winning a championship. I think if you are playing for a legacy you are playing for the wrong reason.”

February 7, 2012 – 6:00 am by Steven Cuce

Eli Manning made headlines this season when he came out and emphatically said he was an ‘elite’ quarterback. He may have been mocked by some, but it was No.10 who had the last laugh on his critics over the weekend.

It was the New York Giants offense who made the big plays down the stretch in crunch time to win Super Bowl XLVI. As many expected, the Super Bowl came down to which offense was going to close the game and Manning’s perfect throw to Mario Manningham late in the 4th quarter helped lead the Giants to victory after the Patriots couldn’t hold a 5-point and 2-point lead in back-to-back possessions.

For Eli it was his second Super Bowl titles in his eight-year career and a well deserved second Super Bowl MVP trophy. Without a doubt the Giants signal caller is the guy any team would want with the game on the line.

Eli Manning joined ESPN New York with “The Michael Kay Show” to discuss thriving in crunch time, not being sure if Mario Manningham caught the ball late in the 4th quarter, not being disappointed with Ahmad Bradshaw for scoring the game winning touchdown, his personal legacy and his second Super Bowl putting title  Tom Coughlin and himself into the Hall of Fame.

What’s in your DNA that you thrive in big moments?

“I think a lot of that is just preparation. You are prepared for those moments. I’ve been in a number of them through high school and college and been in the NFL eight years. We’ve been down at times through the fourth quarter, but you gotta lead your team to victory. I think we prepare for that. We study the opponent and what their tendencies are. We have a great feel for what plays we are going to run and we try to run plays that are ‘safe’ plays, that we rep thousands of times and everybody knows what to do and nothing has to be said. We go out for the last drive. No one says anything. No one has to get hyped up and get excited because we have that kind of look. Everybody stares at each other. We call the play and know we gotta go to work and it’s time to go win this game.”

Did you have confidence that the Mario Manningham catch was going to stand?

“At the time I did not know. I went up there and tried to get a quick snap to see if we could get a run called and not give them time to challenge that. I had a pretty good feeling that Coach Belichick was going to challenge that, whether it was in or out [of bounds]. It’s too big of a play not to challenge. I gave my best effort to try to get a quick snap, but didn’t know. They showed the replay and we saw the two feet in and knew it was a catch. That was a big time play. You change the field position. You are backed up from your own 8-yard line now to mid-field. That totally changed your mindset right there. Now you are not really against the clock at all and now we can huddle up and we can run the ball. We can throw it underneath, throws some screens, we can do a lot of things and be patient and try to run the clock and still get a touchdown and win the game.”

How disappointed were you that Ahmad Bradshaw scored the touchdown?

“No. I wasn’t disappointed. Obviously it turned out the right way. It wasn’t something we talked a whole lot about. I’m still a firm believer you want to score a touchdown in that situation. It’s not one of those deals where kneel down and you send out the kicking team with 10 seconds left to win the game just because there is a chance something always goes wrong. In this game you do not want to put anything to chance. Maybe in that circumstance if you know they are going to give up you go down at the six inch line and make them use their last timeout. You can still score on third down and get yourself the four or five point lead right there. I’m trying to yell when he handed off, ‘Hey don’t score!’ He thought about it, but it was something we hadn’t talked as a unit and as a group about what we wanted to do right there, so he did the right thing scoring the touchdown and giving us the lead.”

After your second Super Bowl victory have you thought about your personal legacy at all?

“No I really haven’t. [Michael Kay: Really!] That’s not why you play the game. When you get into playing football, playing sports as a little kid, it’s not about a legacy or winning an award. It’s abut coming together as a team. It’s about doing something great together. It’s about winning a championship. That’s what it’s all about. I’m excited to have this feeling again. I promise you it never quenches the thirst. I learned that after the first one. It’s not like hey I am satisfied that I won one. I can relax. It just makes you thirstier because this feeling – that feeling after the game and that last night – just the celebrations with the teammates with the family and friends…that’s addictive. You want to have that. I think if you are playing a for a legacy you are playing for the wrong reason. I had my mind set going into this game not thinking about any of those things, not thinking about this parade, not thinking about what I would celebrate. All I thought about was going out there and playing my best football. What it was going to take? How long would I have to perform? Given that mindset that has helped me. I expressed that to my teammates also and helped them get into the moment and understood what it was going to take to win this game.”

Does this second Super Bowl win put yourself and Tom Coughlin into the Hall of Fame?

“I don’t know. I hope…obviously I have  the greatest respect for Tom Coughlin. My 8 years have all been with him. I think he has been a great teacher, role model, coach for me to have and just the way his strict…not rules, but his strict attitude towards preparation, effort, discipline. Those things have given me opportunities to become a better player, a better person and I think I give him a lot of credit for making me into a better player. Hopefully people will realize he is a great coach. He’s had a great career here with the Giants. He had great success in Jacksonville starting up a new franchise, going to the AFC Championship a couple of times. He’s had success a lot of places he has been and I think Tom Coughlin – people will talk about him. I think he’s loosened up his outlook on his approach on football. He has been here long enough and we’ve had enough guys who have been here with him this time that we have bought into it completely. I bought into it. I expressed that to my teammates. He doesn’t have to worry about that. We have great leaders on this team that are going to take care of the preparation part and that’s enabled him to loosen up because he has faith in us.”

Listen to Eli Manning on 1050 ESPN New York here

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