*Eli Manning reflects on the Giants 2016 season and talks goals for next year: *
HOUSTON – Nine years ago today, the Giants defeated the 18-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Coming off an 11-5 season and a playoff berth for the first time in five years, Eli Manning said today he believes the Giants can celebrate the 10-year anniversary of that game by playing in Super Bowl LII next year in Minneapolis.
"I think that's always the goal," Manning said here today. "Yes, I'm encouraged. You win 11 games, you're doing good things. It doesn't mean it's guaranteed for next year. We have to work our tail off and we need guys to stay up. We have to make additions and work to make sure that we're doing everything possible to get there. I know the organization will do that and coach (Ben) McAdoo and my teammates are going to continue to work and make the improvements to make that happen."
Manning is in town as one of the three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The winner will be announced tomorrow night on the NFL Honors show on FOX. Manning was a finalist last year, and was in San Francisco during Super Bowl week. But he'd prefer to be in the host city of the Super Bowl as a participant in the game, not to potentially receive an individual award or to make appearances.
"It's hard," he said. "Especially making the playoffs and then watching some of the playoff games. That's the desire and that want is definitely there. I think this year we've made improvements and have gotten closer to our goal. We'll just go from there. We have to make sure we're taking that next step to get better next year, but we're heading in the right direction. I'm happy about that."
Although the Giants won five more games this season than they did in 2015, they scored just 310 points, or 110 less than they did the previous season. Put another way, they scored 230 fewer points than the Atlanta Falcons, who led the NFL in scoring and will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI on Sunday.
The Giants did not score 30 points in a game all season (for the first time since 2001), and did not score 20 points in any of their final six games, including the 38-13 loss in Green Bay in the NFC Wild Card Game.
"Definitely surprised," Manning said of the Giants' difficulty in putting points on the board. "With the personnel we had, I definitely thought we would be able to move the ball better and score more. We've been doing it the last couple of years, but nothing carries over from the year before. You have to earn it, work at it and look to see how we can get better."
Manning was asked if it's frustrating to end a season saying, "We didn't score enough points."
"Obviously, it's about points scored versus points you're giving up," he said. "The defense was playing great football (allowing 284, the league's second-lowest total). I think that does change your mindset a little bit. When your defense is playing great, you don't have to be quite as aggressive. You can play a little bit more conservative. I think that plays into (it). There is no doubt that offensively we didn't play as well as we needed to for most of the season. We just didn't score enough points. We did some good things, made some important drives at key moments in games and scored when we had to. We played well enough to win games, but we definitely have to find a way to be more explosive and put up more points offensively."
Manning was asked questions about several other Giants and NFL-related topics:
• On the numerous analysts who said here this week that Manning was hampered this season by the play of the Giants' offensive line:
"I have a job to find completions and throw it," Manning said. "Those guys upfront are busting their tail and they're working. We all have to make improvements. I have to make throws and move in the pocket. I'm not going to sit here and talk about a specific group. As an offense, we have to get better. It starts with me, but there's a lot of areas. It's a team effort to make sure that everyone is doing their part and doing it better than what we did last year."
• On whether the Giants have "the formula" for beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl – which they did twice with Manning winning the game's MVP award.
"No, I don't think there is a secret formula," Manning said. "It's not be down by two or four with two minutes to go. Can you create that scenario and then hit a couple of very contested throws at the end of the game to win? I don't think that's how you want to draw it up. Just the way it worked out those games. Obviously, Seattle was right there and was one yard away from winning (two years) ago. I don't think there's a special formula."
• On the opinion voiced by several commentators that the Patriots enter the game with a psychological advantage on their opponents because of their long-term success, particularly in Super Bowls.
"I think we felt great going into the game," Manning said. "I think it helped that we played them the last game of the regular season (in 2007). In the 2011 season, we played them and beat them. I think we didn't look at them in awe. The Patriots, it's Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. We just had a gameplan, went out there and could execute it."
• On the possibility the Giants will draft a quarterback to be his potential successor:
"We drafted Ryan Nassib four years ago," Manning said. "We'll see what happens. If they want to draft a quarterback, then I understand the scenario. I know how old I am (36) and I know that you have to prepare for the future and all of those things. Whatever they do, I know they'll do what's best for the Giants this season and in the future."
• On the reason for his text to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan:
"Just good luck," Manning said. "I've texted Matt during the season before and we're buddies. Last Super Bowl, we played golf together while we were in San Francisco early in the week. I know him well and have been texting him through the playoffs a little bit. I'm excited to see him. They're playing well. I'm excited for him and being in the Super Bowl. Just a text and a little message last week after they won and knew they were going to the Super Bowl."
• On the importance another Super Bowl victory would mean to the "overall satisfaction in your career":
"I'm not worried about overall satisfaction or legacy and this and that," Manning said. "It's about each year. That's the goal. I want to get better, play well, win football games and I want to try and bring a championship to the organization, to the fans and teammates that have never been in that situation, that have never been to the Super Bowl or played in the Super Bowl or multiple playoff games. It's about each year doing it because that's the goal and the point of every year. Just going out there and playing your best."