John Mara: Good morning and thank you for being here. This is certainly a day of very mixed emotions for us. It's sad in one sense because we're seeing the end of an incredible playing career, and saying goodbye to someone who has been everything you could ask a player to be both on and off the field for the last 16 years.
Yet, we're also very happy because we get to be here to celebrate that incredible career and we're also able to witness one of the greatest players in franchise history be able to leave the game on his own terms, having played his whole career as a Giant, something that doesn't always happen in this business and if anybody deserved that opportunity, it's Eli Manning.
For the last 16 years, Eli has meant so much to all of us here at the Giants and also to our fans. We all know about the two Super Bowl MVP's and all of the great performances on the field. But just as important, was the way he conducted himself on and off the field as the consummate professional, always with dignity, always with class.
We all have so many memories of Eli. I just want to quickly mention two of mine. I certainly remember the days leading up to the 2004 NFL Draft, when I was constantly in and out of Ernie Accorsi's office. We were on the phone, hoping we could pull off that trade with San Diego and what a trade it turned out to be, probably the best trade in franchise history. Eli became the face of the franchise, Super Bowl MVP and as fine a representative as this team has ever had. Ernie, who is here today, I want to thank you for having the foresight and patience and guts to pull off that trade and help build those Super Bowl teams.
I also remember the last game of the 2004 season, Eli's rookie year, when he took the team down the field at the end of the game in the closing seconds to beat Dallas, it was the last game my father ever saw, and I can remember walking to the locker room with him afterward and him saying to me, "I think we found our guy." And how right he was.
I want to acknowledge a number of Eli's past and present teammates, a lot of whom are here today, all of whom played a huge part in his career. I can't mention all of you because I know I'll forget somebody, but thank you for being here.
Tom Coughlin, our great coach, who led us to those two Super Bowls and who was so instrumental in Eli's success. I also want to acknowledge my partner, Steve Tisch, who wanted desperately to be here today, but is under the weather and was unable to fly. Fortunately, Laurie Tisch is here to represent the Tisch family.
Eli, Steve did tell me he has some movie roles in store for you. You obviously made an impression on him with your fine acting in all those commercials you did. He specifically mentioned, by the way, co-starring in Equalizer 3 with Denzel Washington. I guess I missed Equalizer 1 and 2, but I'm sure going to catch number 3 if you're in it.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank Olivia and Archie Manning for raising such an outstanding son and to Abby, for being so supportive of Eli for all these years. We would not be standing here today celebrating his great career, if not for everything you guys did.
And finally, Eli, what more can I say, thank you for everything you've done for the New York Giants for the last 16 years, for being such a role model for our players, for our fans and for everything you've done in the community.
We have this game ball to present to you, which attempts to list all of your accomplishments, I'm not sure we got them all in there, but you will always be the ultimate Giant, and we would be honored to induct you into our Ring of Honor next season. And please know this, no Giant will ever wear No. 10 again.
Eli Manning: Good morning and thanks for coming. This sport has very few real farewells, but as the clock ran down on our win against the Dolphins this season, I ran to my favorite place in the stadium, the tunnel. I waved to our loyal fans and then Abby, my kids, ran out to meet me. That was my farewell and a moment I'll cherish forever. There won't be any more tunnel moments for me, and I'll truly miss them.
I'll miss standing in the shadows, staring out into the field before a game surrounded by my teammates and knowing all the hard work we've put in. I'll miss hearing the first roar of the crowd, triggering the knowledge that we had been given one more opportunity to go win a football game.
It's impossible to explain the satisfaction, actually the joy, I've experienced being a Giant. From the very first moment, I did it my way. I couldn't be someone other than who I am. Undoubtedly, I would have made the fans, the media, even the front office more comfortable if I was a more 'rah-rah guy', but that's not me.
Ultimately, I truly believed my teammates and the fans learned to appreciate that. They knew what they got was pure, unadulterated Eli. I don't have any regrets and I won't look in the rear-view mirror.
Would we have liked to have won more games or championships? Of course we would have. 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. We did all we could do every week.
I choose to leave this game with only positive memories. Why harp on the not-so-proud moments? Where is the value in that? If there are going to be endless echoes, choose the good ones. For now, I'll focus on the touchdowns, the wins, celebrations with teammates, family and friends and sharing a cold beer in the back of a bus after a big game.
I'll remember the OTAs and training camps. I'll remember the special people that make this organization what it is. During the past 16 years, many of the faces have not changed, from the film people, the equipment managers, the community relations department, and those in the cafeteria and the training room. Each of them have become like family to me. I've watched as they have gotten married and I've seen their kids grow.
I'll miss the people and I'll miss the life experiences that we've shared. I'll remember conversations with coaches, game planning and meeting rooms. Those are unique memories I treasure and ones I'll relive with teammates for decades from now.
When you win championships, you have a special, unbreakable bond with teammates. When you see them, you give them a hug and hold it just a little bit longer because of that unique connection with those special people. Many became friends that will last a lifetime.
I was excited to come to New York. When I make a decision, I'm determined to make it work. Abby and I became active members in our community, whether it's parent volunteers for kids' sports teams or supporters of local charities, like Tackle Kids Cancer, March of Dimes and Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
I don't have a single regret and ultimately, I think that it worked out for you and for me. We supported our community in the past, today, and since we're going to be sticking around here, we'll continue to support this community in the future.
It's rare to have the privilege of playing an entire career with one organization. I'm proud to be one of the few, but even more so, that it was as a Giant. There are a few people that I want to thank.
Of course, the Mara and the Tisch family. You can be confident that no one has loved and appreciated wearing the Giants uniform more than I have and that will never change.
To Ernie Accorsi, 16 years ago, Ernie made the trade that made me a Giant for life. Thank you so much.
To Coach Tom Coughlin, thanks for teaching me the work ethic, the discipline and the value of team-above-all-else mentality.
To Coach Kevin Gilbride, thanks for always having my back and trusting me and supporting me through my entire career.
And of course, to all my teammates. If I named them all, it would take forever and no one would recognize me if I did.
What I will say is that the best thing about playing all these years, is the number of teammates that I can call real friends, and of all those friends, I'm lucky enough to have a few that have become as close as brothers.
And of course, my family. I don't think I need to make public comments for my family to know how I think about them, but Abby, and to Ava and Lucy and Caroline and Charlie, you are my rock.
And to the Giants fans, you are definitely unique, but I love you for that. I'm walking away today feeling like a New Yorker. Well, at least a Northeasterner and that says a lot about a guy from New Orleans who went to Ole Miss.
Since I've only been here, I'm biased when I say that the New York Giants are the greatest organization in the NFL and how they treat players, coaches and personnel. The team's driving commitment: to win football games. It's a rarity, but here, "Team" always comes first.
It's been an honor to be a part of this family and I hope that I've represented the organization in the way that you wanted me to from my first day to my last.
For most of my life, people have called me Easy. Believe me, this is nothing easy about today.
Wellington Mara always said, "Once a Giant, Always a Giant." For me, it's 'Only a Giant.'
Thank you so much.
Q: Curious, why retire now instead of pursue opportunities, because you had kind of indicated you felt like you had something left to give.
ELI MANNING: Well, I think it was important to me to go out as a Giant, and I think when you get drafted and you come to an organization, I think that's always your goal to stay with one organization your entire career.As you get towards the end of it, it doesn't always work out that way and you still have desires to play sometime, but I think it was important, the fans, the organization, this family with the Giants, has been so remarkable. I think it was the right thing to call it a career and to end it instead of trying to uproot my family and leave and try somewhere else.This was the right decision, and I know it is and I'm at peace with it. I think that's what has made this day a little bit easier.
Q: How much pride do you take in your durability, never missing a start, and was there a game it was close that you might have missed?
ELI MANNING: There was a couple games where it was close, I didn't practice most of the week and maybe went out on a Friday for the first time.I think what it was, was a lot about trying to be there for your teammates. You saw guys playing through injuries. You saw offensive lineman that were sore, beat-up running backs that were sore every week, but they did what they could to be there for their teammates, ownership, their coaches and that's really what it was more about.I didn't want to let them down. I didn't want to let them know they were working and doing everything, so I knew I would always -- hey, if I had to be in the training room all day, Ronnie Barnes, with the training staff and make them -- hey, whatever it took to get healthy, I was going to do it, and if I felt I could play and play well enough to win a football game, then I wanted to be out there. That was always the mindset to do everything possible to be out there for my team.
Q: You're going to have a lot of time on your hands. What you do see yourself doing a year from now, five years from now?
ELI MANNING: I don't know. I think these last few weeks as I made this decision, I really didn't think much about going forward. I think a lot of my time was spent just reflecting on these past 16 years. I talked to a lot of coaches, a lot of former teammate. We had a lot of laughs, a few cries, just about the great moments. And so I think my focus has been on that. You know, I look forward to a little downtime. I look forward to spending time with my family, coaching Ava's third great basketball team, assistant coach, and just being involved with my kids and Abby and getting to do some things that I've missed out on because of this job and occupation and dedication I gave to it. I think I'm going to take some time and just enjoy it and then figure out what my next steps are.
Q: Thanks for the class and elegance over the years. Do you think you got closure from the last victory and did that make the decision easier because that game ended up the way it was beautifully, with the victory at home in the tunnel?
ELI MANNING: As I talked about, that was a special game and just because -- you know, this sport, it's different. It's different than a lot of other sports where you kind of have a farewell tour in baseball or basketball, when you kind of know you're going to retire that season. This year, you don't know what's going to happen. But I think the fact that my contract was up and this was maybe going to be my last start, and to get a win in your home stadium and to have the crowd and kind of that recognition, I think there was kind of -- you know, as I said, my farewell. I think it does help give you a little bit of closure and kind of have one last great positive memory that you can kind of remember your last game that you played was a win at home and the emotions that surrounded that. So I think it did help make this process easier.
Q: John Mara had said that he would welcome you into the organization in some capacity. Have you thought of taking on a role within the Giants in the future? Is that something you would be interested in later on?
ELI MANNING: Yeah, I think that would be something I would be interested in. I've just got to, you know, have to discuss that and talk to Mr. Mara and see in what ways, and I've got to think about in what way. I think, you know, again, I'll take some time and just figure out, you know, how I want to spend these next years. But this organization, as I said, so many close friends within the organization, and not just the former teammates, but people in all departments of the organization. The faces, they don't change. People don't leave here because of all the wonderful people and the way the organization is run, and they take care of the people here. You do have so many great people that I'd love to be around and be around the people that I call my friends.
Q: What was it like being a backup last year and Daniel, what do you think the future holds for him as a Giants quarterback?
ELI MANNING: Yeah, I think there's a bright future. There's obviously, I try to think of the positive moments and great memories, and I have a lot of them. I have a lot of fond memories of being in the meeting rooms and being with the coaches and being around Daniel and Alex Tanney in the quarterback room. We had lots of laughs and great work that we did. I know Daniel. I appreciate a lot of things about him, and the fact that he loves the game of football. He's passionate about it and he works extremely hard, so you appreciate those things. If that weren't the case, it might have been harder to go through this situation, but you see the way he conducts himself, and I think, you know, he's got a bright, bright future ahead of him and do so the Giants.
Q: When you look behind you, the two huge banners with the Lombardi trophies, when you look at those, your teammates always talked about your ability to stay calm in the craziest times and the word often used is "clutch." What does "clutch" mean to you and why were you able to do that?
ELI MANNING: You know, I always thought in those moments, in a two-minute drive or a situation, I think there's people that have different reactions to certain things. Some people when they get in that moment, they are scared they might make a mistake or worried about the bad things that could happen and what those outcomes could be and how that might affect them, where when I get in that situation, I only think about how awesome it's going to be when we go down the field and score this touchdown. That's the mindset and that's what you work toward and you game plan. It's not 'what are the problems?' It's, 'what are the plays that are going to work and what are the plays that are going to be successful?' and you have those and you work them and you plan for those. It's the mindset and I think that's contagious around your teammates when they sense that and they feel that, and you have, you know, new guys that might be in that scenario, but I've been in it before. We've had fourth quarter wins and so I think they trust in me and so it's the team coming together and being confident in those scenarios that they can go out there and everybody can raise their level of play just a little bit more and so you get that opportunity to go win that game.
Q: You talked about how you wanted to do it your way and how you believed everyone would come around and respect that. Was it difficult in the early years?
ELI MANNING: There was definitely difficult times in the early years. You're struggling as a player sometimes and you're not winning as many games, and you're dealing with the New York media and they are harping on you about different things. I think that's the time when you kind of test it, and you just say, I have to stay true and know that the hard work, the dedication, the commitment; you rely on your values and know they will get you through those times. When you do that, you see the progress and you see little steps of getting better and improvement verifies it, so you can stay that course. If you try to become -- just because you're maybe struggling or you've had -- even the good times or even the bad times, if you start changing your ways and start having the outside world affect the way you conduct yourself, the way you act around your friends or your family or teammates, I just don't see there being any positives in that.
I'm naturally a quiet guy, but I work hard and I try to earn the respect from my teammates through my dedication and my hard work. If I tried to be a 'rah-rah' or yelling at people, you know, it wouldn't be natural. It would be awkward. It would be fake and that would be sniffed out and it would come back to haunt me I think.
Q: You handled the challenge of going to Ole Miss, and being a Manning and ignoring the trappings of New York. Where did that intestinal fortitude come from?
ELI MANNING: I think I tried to look at the big picture of things and get a sense of a place where I'm going to be happy and where it feels right. There's people that I meet within the organization. Obviously when I went to Ole Miss, David Cutcliffe was the head coach and that was someone I trusted and appreciated and someone that I knew. I knew working with him was going to make me a better football player and that's why I went to Ole Miss was to be a better football player. When I was interviewing with the Giants, I met with Mr. Mara and Tom Coughlin, the whole Giants organization, and I saw their commitment to football. I saw their commitment and just a storied franchise that that's what they cared about. They cared about winning games and just putting a great team out there each and every year, and I appreciated that; that desire, that same commitment. I know I had that same desire about football and would fit well in this organization. So that's why we made it work and why I wanted to come here.
Q: Another New York sports icon went into the Hall of Fame this week, Derek Jeter. I wonder what you learned from him about handling this market, and also, second part would be what would it mean for you to go into your sport's Hall of Fame?
ELI MANNING: I'm just trying to figure out which one of y'all didn't vote for him. (Laughter) I know there's only one of you, so I know you're probably in here. You know, Derek was great. He called me my rookie year when we were starting, lost a few games, and he just talked to me about that it would get easier and stay the course and be yourself and keep working, and things do improve. We've had a good relationship over the years. Seen him at several things and stayed in touch somewhat. After that, it was someone who I watched closely and how he conducted himself, how he dealt with the media, how he dealt with fans and how he worked hard and how he stayed humble in all circumstances after so many championships that he's won. He was on top of the world. You know, I took a lot of notes from how he handled New York, so he's been great role model for me all these years. Your second question, that's not a concern. My focus now is just reliving the great moments and the great memories with my teammates and my family, and let everything else work out from there.
Q: I just want to know, what would be your message to future generations of Giants players?
ELI MANNING: I think my message to all the Giants players is that, you're coming to a wonderful organization that truly cares about your well-being, but -- and if you -- they are committed to doing whatever it takes to put a winning team out there on the field and to bring championships here -- and dedication to this organization that they have in you, great things will get accomplished.
Q: If you did not have that game against the Dolphins that Sunday, how different do you think the process would have been leading up to today?
ELI MANNING: Yeah, I don't know. It's hard to have hypothetical questions. I'm happy it happened and I guess I won't try to look back and see how things would have been different if it had.
Q: Tom Brady tweeted just a little while ago wishing you the best in retirement and congratulating you on a great career. He said, "Not going to lie, though. I wish you hadn't won any Super Bowls." Those two moments, of course, will live forever. What do you take from head-to-head against Tom Brady and also delivering what people thought were unlikely championships those two years?
ELI MANNING: I've been around Tom a number of times and see how competitive he is. We joke around it a little bit, but I think it's not real funny to him. You know, those are obviously -- when you think about the great moments in your career, those are going to be at the top of the list, when you win championships and both of them, two-minute drives to go down there and win it against an undefeated team that had not lost all year; I think those are special.I think everybody wants to make it me versus Tom Brady. It was the Giants versus Patriots. Our defenses played outstanding. Guys made plays. David Tyree, Mario Manningham, Plaxico Burress, in the corner of the end zone. Like I said, you just cherish those moments and you cherish those relationships that you have with those teammates and coaches when you win those games, and you know, those are -- that's obviously why you play for. You play for the opportunity to win a championship. You realize how hard it is and how difficult and all the breaks that have to go your way and that you got to overcome to get to those scenarios. Those are special ones that fortunately you get to kind of relive those moments through your friends.
Q: Obviously this was a tough decision. What was the best advice that you were given and who gave it to you?
ELI MANNING: You know, I talked to a lot of people. Peyton, I relied on Peyton a lot because obviously the similarities and going through a career and trying to decide how it ended. I talked to him a lot about when he changed franchises from the Colts to Denver and how that affected him and it was a little different scenario. I talked to him a lot about that. I talked to coaches and teammates and just trying to get their ideas, guys who had left organizations and learned a couple things. Guys with the Giants, having to leave and go other places, they all kind of said the same thing. They said it's not the same other places; it's different. I think it was just a lot of people said, 'hey, sit on it, think on it. Don't rush into any decisions.' I might have rushed into it a little bit because I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew 100 percent I'm not going to have -- I'm not going to regret this. When I make a decision, I commit to it and make it the right decision. This is it and this is the right one. It's an honor to have played here 16 years and to have only played here.