*Giants QB Eli Manning spoke on WFAN to discuss his outlook this offseason: *
Heading into 2007 and 2011, no one said "this is the Giants' year."
In 2017, people did.
While the results of those three very different seasons speak for themselves, the worst-to-first nature of the NFL makes anything possible. Couple that with an innate drive to get back to championship football, and that is what keeps Eli Manning going as he turns 37 years old on Wednesday.
"I think it's just that desire to win every week and to win a championship," Manning told WFAN's "The Afternoon Drive with Carlin, Bart and Maggie" on Tuesday. "That's what it's about. That's why you work hard -- to be a part of something special. That's what those two championships we had, the memories, to be a part of something special, a special group of guys that for whatever reason, when you put them together, things click and you make things happen and you're able to overcome circumstances."
It's that type of culture that Dave Gettleman wants to cultivate as the Giants' new general manager. He saw it in 2007 and 2011 during his first tenure as an executive with the organization, and he had it as a general manager in 2015 when his Panthers went 15-1 and made it to Super Bowl 50.
"You send a message, let everybody know the ground rules, and you move forward," Gettleman said in an interview with CBM on WFAN earlier in the afternoon. "And you have to be consistent with that message, consistent with those ground rules. That's how you get everybody on the same page, and at the end of the day, everybody's got to understand where you want to get to. And there are no shortcuts in the NFL."
Once that is understood, the magic happens.
"There are going to be ups and downs, this and that, there is a fight, there is a desire, it's important to everybody and you get a group of guys that can make some magic happen," Manning said. "That's the desire. And you don't know when it's going to be. Those two years we won it, we didn't go in – 'oh, this is the year, it's automatic and we're going to breeze through this.' It's just guys stepped up and we stayed healthy and we were able to click at the right times. And that's what it's about. You have to be ready for any year. So you prepare and you work your tail off to [get an opportunity] to make the playoffs. And you never know when you can put something special together."
It might sound like wishful thinking to say the Giants are not far away after setting a franchise record for losses in a single season. But just look at this year's playoff field.
Five of the eight division winners – Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints and Jaguars – finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year. And there are eight new teams in this year's playoff field, which is tied for the most in a season (2003) since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990. And since then, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.
"I don't think there's a long process," Manning said. "Obviously you've got to get some guys back healthy, but I think from a skill standpoint, it's not far away. You get a healthy Odell [Beckham Jr.] back, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, these guys are young guys that are coming along. I don't know whether Brandon Marshall [will be back], Rhett Ellison, I think there are some guys that are quality guys, that it's important to them, that work hard.
"And then obviously we have some questions on the O-line of what guys are coming back and some free agents there and stuff, a defensive group that last year played outstanding and this year we had some injuries and some tough moments. In football, you see it this year with a lot of teams that go from not winning many games to right now in the playoffs. … You make the playoffs, then anything can happen there. I don't think we're far off."
But don't get him wrong. Manning knows the work ahead for the organization. Then there's the whole question of whether or not he will even be back. If he is – and there is a desire for that to happen from both his side and management's – he'll be learning a new scheme under a new coaching staff while a young quarterback, perhaps the No. 2 overall draft pick, likely waits in the wings.
Neither fazes him.
"It's a little different just because Kurt [Warner] was coming in also the same year," Manning said when asked about the comparison to the situation he came into as the top draft choice in 2004. "So we were both trying to learn an offense together. I don't think there's comparisons in the sense except that, hey, he's a quarterback that had been around and I was a young quarterback getting drafted. So obviously it depends on what the Giants do also – whether they draft a quarterback early or not, or they believe [Davis] Webb could be the guy."
As for the new system, Manning has been around the block enough times to know it's a copycat league. Most of the plays are the same, just run in different ways.
He experienced his first major change in 2014. Ben McAdoo, then the new offensive coordinator, installed a version of the West Coast system after Manning spent years in Kevin Gilbride's run-and-shoot scheme where receivers read the routes and adjusted depending on coverages.
"I can still throw it," Manning said. "I like play-action stuff. So I think having been in a couple systems now and this past one was little more of a combination of a number of things, I can adjust to whatever coordinator comes in and I think be able to have a better idea of what's going on, having been in a couple systems now."