EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — On Wednesday, the first day of the New York Giants’ 2019 training camp, Eli Manning stood behind the podium, smiling often and shrugging plenty. This, in itself, was not unusual.
The amount of self-reflection the 38-year-old showed at the outset of his 16th training camp with the Giants — the longest tenure of any player in the organization’s history — was, however.
“I’m blessed and excited to be here today, playing for the New York Giants,” Manning told reporters. “You have more appreciation [for it].
“I think when you are younger, you assume you’re going to keep playing, you assume you’ll be back playing and you don’t think about it. Now, there is that mindset that you don’t know the future of things, which is fine. I think it makes you appreciate being here and want to take advantage and prepare more and be ready to take advantage of this opportunity.”
What exactly led to this reflective state on this balmy summer day remains up for debate. One could posit it’s his age, or maybe even the Giants’ 8-24 record the past two years.
But during a conversation with Yahoo Sports shortly after the news conference, it became clear that the team’s decision to spend the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft on his eventual replacement may have played a small role in it, as well.
“I don’t know if there was a certain thing,” Manning said, “but I think when we did select Daniel [Jones], and you see a kid that I’ve known a little bit and he’s coming in, I think you see some similarities of kinda what I was like when I was 23 years old and coming to the Giants and the whole whirlwind he’s about to go through.”
Jones’ selection prompted memories of 2004 for Manning, when the Giants traded for him to succeed Kurt Warner, a future Hall of Famer who was presumptively on the downside of his career. Manning now finds himself on the opposite end of that scenario, sharing a quarterback room with a high draft pick who some say looks like a younger version of himself and was even tutored by his old college coach at Ole Miss, current Duke coach David Cutcliffe.
Eli Manning through his career
Eli Manning through his career
University of Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning (R) greets Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Josh Fields after the Rebels defeated the Cowboys 31-28 at the 68th Cotton Bowl Classic in Dallas, Texas, January 2, 2004. Manning passed for 259 yards. REUTERS/Jeff Mitchell JM
Quarterback Eli Manning (L), from the University of Mississippi, stands with his brother, NFL quarterback Payton Manning, after Eli was chosen as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, at Madison Square Garden in New York, April 24, 2004. Manning was originally selected by the San Diego Chargers, who then traded him to the New York Giants shortly afterwards for future draft picks. REUTERS/Chip East MS/HB
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10), the first choice in the 2004 National Football League draft, listens to Offensive Coordinator John Hufnagel (L) as he works out on the first day of the Giants Mandatory Mini-Camp at the Giants practice facility next to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, May 7, 2004. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine RFS
New York Giants starting quarterback Eli Manning throws a pass during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, November 21, 2004. Manning, this season's number 1 overall NFL draft pick, was making his first start for the Giants replacing Kurt Warner who started the Giants' first nine games of the season. REUTERS/Mike Segar MS
New York Giants quarterback Manning celebrates throwing a touchdown pass next to Arizona Cardinals Okeafor in East Rutherford. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (R) celebrates throwing a touchdown pass next to Arizona Cardinals Chike Okeafor (L) during first quarter action in their NFL game in East Rutherford September 11, 2005. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning throws against the Washington Redskins in the first half of their NFL game in Landover, Maryland, December 24, 2005. Washington defeated New York 35-20. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (L) talks with his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, following their NFL football game in East Rutherford September 10, 2006. The game was the first time the brothers played against each other as quarterbacks in the NFL. Indianapolis defeated New York. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning tries to evade a tackle by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Demarcus Ware (R) in the fourth quarter of their NFL footall game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, December 3, 2006. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning (10) rolls out of the pocket during second quarter of his team's NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, New York December 23, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin (L) stands with quarterback Eli Manning before their NFC Divisional NFL playoff football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Irving, Texas, January 13, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is interviewed by the NFL Network during press conference in Phoenix, Arizona, January 28, 2008. The Giants will play the undefeated New England Patriots in the National Football League's Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona, February 3, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Topping (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) celebrates after his touchdown pass to teammate David Tyree (not pictured) in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots in the NFL's Super Bowl XLII football game in Glendale, Arizona, February 3, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy during his team's ticker tape Super Bowl victory parade through the Canyon of Heroes along Broadway in New York February 5, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants Eli Manning looks on as time expires during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game loss to the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, Ohio October 13, 2008. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his wife Abby McGrew watch the match between Andy Roddick and John Isner at the U.S. Open tennis championship in New York, September 5, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray (UNITED STATES SPORT TENNIS ENTERTAINMENT)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning celebrates throwing a touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter in their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, September 12, 2010. The touchdown was the first scored during a regular season game in the Giants new stadium. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning waves as he leaves the field after the Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys in their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, January 1, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning addresses the media during a news conference for the Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis January 30, 2012. The Giants will play against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on February 5. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Giants defeated the New England Patriots
in the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 5, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning passes against the New York Jets during the first quarter of their pre-season NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey August 18, 2012. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (L) stands with teammate Lawrence Tynes in the final minutes of their NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in East Rutherford, New Jersey, December 30, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
May 4, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning watch the game between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) hands off the ball to New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings (23) in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) reacts after a touchdown was called back on a holding penalty during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) before a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 5, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; From left Benjamin Watson , Eli Manning , Anquan Boldin stand with their awards during the Walter Payton man of the year press conference at Moscone Center in advance of Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) leaves the field after the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) reacts after a play against the New York Giants during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 23: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants throws a pass down field during the game against the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 02: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants runs off the field after his teams 30-27 win over the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium on December 02, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 08: New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) amd New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) prior to the National Football League pre-season football game between the New York Giants and the New York Jets on August 8, 2019 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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“Yeah, there’s a lot of natural similarities,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday. “Physically, size-wise, smarts. A lot of natural ones.”
So in some ways, Manning recognizes that Jones’ selection was just the football version of the circle of life, one Manning has seen far too often during his career.
“I understand the business of things, I understand how football works,” Manning told Yahoo Sports. “I’ve seen my dad retire, seen my brothers retire, seen a number of teammates [retire] and how eventually, things will end at some point. So I’m OK with that, whenever that does happen. I’m still gonna do my job and he’s gotta do his job and the Giants have to do their jobs. And I appreciate what everyone is trying to do.”
When told Wednesday this is still his gig, he said “sure.” When reminded right after that this remains his show, he confidently replied “no doubt.” And Manning, to his credit, spent the offseason doing the necessary work to ensure that would remain the case.
“I thought I had a good offseason in the weight room, just getting the body feeling good, keeping it where it was or making improvements in terms of weight room, conditioning, throwing, keeping the arm strong and getting prepared,” Manning said. “Training camp is the time where your arm gets tested more than any other time, where you have four practices in a row or you might have eight practices in nine days, where you’re not really used to doing that. So you want to make sure ... you’re throwing enough to keep your arm strong enough to handle that amount.”
And yes, Manning — who completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,299 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as the Giants went 5-11 last season — believes he has enough juice in his right arm to lead the Giants to the promised land.
“I still feel my arm’s very strong — I can make all the throws,” Manning said. “I can get it out there and make the long throws, the deep throws.”
Manning will have to do so without Odell Beckham Jr., who was traded to the Browns this offseason. The Giants signed Golden Tate to help fill the void, and Shurmur dismissed concerns that the skills of his top three passing targets – Tate, Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram – is duplicable.
“Well, I think all three of those guys can certainly do well in the slot,” Shurmur said. “But they can also do well outside.”
Manning could even be primed to take a step forward in 2019, as it’s certainly not unusual for veteran quarterbacks to perform better when teams draft their replacements (see: Alex Smith in Kansas City in 2017). And while the Giants insist there isn’t a competition between Manning and Jones — “Eli’s the starter, and we’re getting Daniel ready to play,” Shurmur told Yahoo Sports — Giants safety Michael Thomas suggested that Jones’ presence has already lifted the on-field performance of all the quarterbacks, which showed during organized team activities earlier this summer.
“[Jones’] throws were oohing and ahhing even veteran players at times … it kind of brought a little juice and energy, even within the quarterbacks, between Eli, [Alex] Tanney, Daniel and Kyle Lauletta coming back,” Thomas said. “Everybody’s kind of like, on their thing. Everybody rises.
“Every other position, we get it every single year. It was refreshing to see it in the quarterback room.”
Reactions to photo of Eli Manning and Daniel Jones
Reactions to photo of Eli Manning and Daniel Jones
This is a real picture https://t.co/O6DmuUX2Wb
It took me an hour to realize that this photo by @DanielleParhiz is Daniel Jones and Eli, not just Eli photoshopped… https://t.co/FZyLYMV5GQ
The Giants really drafted Eli Manning Jr. 😂
(H/t @MatthewMayerCBS) https://t.co/KD5Pgt925E
Ummmmm maybe the Giants *did* draft the next Eli Manning 🙃
(📷: @DanielleParhiz) https://t.co/wmrwhRyoUY
This is a photo of Giants QBs Eli Manning and Daniel Jones.
No, it is not photoshopped. (H/T @DanielleParhiz) https://t.co/UdiMGaoq3p
@DanielleParhiz @northjersey @art_stapleton Are we entirely sure that these are actually two different people?
@DanielleParhiz @northjersey @art_stapleton WHAT THE https://t.co/94JFC8luY3
Eli Manning teaching Daniel Jones the proper facial expressions at Giants practice (📷 by @DanielleParhiz) https://t.co/JEMp2thueD
Legit can’t tell if this is the new QB or just Eli Manning twice https://t.co/1NmnxHzcQu
Uhh the Giants actually drafted a clone of Eli Manning, this is terrifying https://t.co/IIaOK7LEd4
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Not that Manning necessarily needed Jones’ presence to lock in for 2019. The Giants’ struggles the past two years did that for him, especially as he increasingly ponders the importance of ending a potential Hall-of-Fame career — whenever it comes — with a flourish.
“Well, the best way is to go out and win a championship,” Manning told Yahoo Sports. “That’s the goal and that’s what we’re working at. And if I didn’t think that was a possibility, I wouldn’t be doing this.”