The Book of Eli is officially closed at the Meadowlands, and the author is signing off exactly the way he wanted to.
Long-time New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning announced his retirement on Friday morning at team facilities, bringing the end to a 16-year run as the face of the franchise.
“It’s rare to have the privilege of playing an entire career with one organization,” Manning said. “I’m proud to be one of the few, but even more so, that it was as a Giant.”
Manning is one of the most decorated players in Giants history, winning two championships and two Super Bowl MVPs in the process.
With his retirement, the 39-year-old ranks seventh all-time with 57,023 passing yards and 366 touchdowns. Both are Giants franchise records.
The Louisiana native made his way to New York in 2004 when former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi traded for him after Manning made it known he would not play for the then-San Diego Chargers, who picked him first overall in the draft out of Ole Miss.
“It’s impossible to explain the satisfaction, actually the joy, I’ve experienced in being a Giant,” Manning said. “From the very first moment, I did it my way. I couldn’t be someone other than who I am.”
Giants owner John Mara grew emotional when discussing the acquisition of Manning and what he meant to his father — long-time team owner Wellington Mara. The last game he saw before his death featured a rookie Manning lead the Giants to a last-minute victory over the Cowboys on the final game of the 2004 season.
“I remember walking with him to the locker room afterward and him saying, ‘I think we found our guy,'” Mara said as his voice quivered. “How right he was.”
Manning’s crowning achievement came in Super Bowl XLII,12 years ago when he led New York to the largest title-game upset in NFL history, defeating the then-undefeated New England Patriots that would have been considered one of the greatest teams of all-time had they won that Super Sunday.
In that came his marquee moment, connecting with David Tyree after a mad scramble for the famous “helmet catch,” during the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
It almost made his pinpoint pass to Mario Manningham four years later during the game-winning drive of Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots look mundane.
Manning held a 117-117 record as a starter with an 8-4 mark in the postseason as the debate of his Hall-of-Fame candidacy begins.
But he’s not thinking about that.
“Would I have liked to win a few more games or championships? Of course, I would’ve. There were tough times that I learned and grew from, but I always knew the level of effort and sacrifice my teammates and coaches made,” Manning said. “I choose to leave this game with positive memories. Why harp on the not-so-proud moments? Where’s the value in that?”
While Manning reeled in plenty of accolades for his performances on the field, he was also an iron man under center, appearing in 210-straight games from 2004-2017.
“You always saw guys playing through injuries,” Manning said. “I didn’t want to let [my teammates] down.”
The 2019 season saw Manning wade into uncharted waters as he was benched for rookie Daniel Jones in the proverbial passing of the torch.
While Manning hinted earlier in the offseason that he would consider looking elsewhere to play, he opted not to, citing his loyalty to the Giants.
“It was important for me to go out as a Giant,” Manning said. “It’s important to the fans, the organization, and this family… I think it was the right thing to call it a career and end it instead of trying to uproot my family and leave and try somewhere else… I’m at peace with it.”
“There’s nothing easy about today. Wellington Mara once said, ‘Once, a Giant, always a Giant.’ For me, it’s ‘Only a Giant.'”