Nearly 14 years after Archie Manning provided cover for a son who sensed that San Diego didn’t really want him (so he really didn’t want San Diego), Archie once again is speaking for Eli.
This time around, the message is more convoluted, and perhaps internally inconsistent. This time around, however, the situation is a bit more delicate than simply scaring off the Chargers. This time around, Eli needs to figure out what he wants before a strategy aimed at getting him what he wants can be implemented.
Put simply, Archie says “there’s no sense speculating” about Eli’s future, while Archie offers up a fairly juicy slice of speculation: Eli could retire.
“If he’s still there, we don’t know what their future plans are, if other people are there,” Archie said. “And you have no idea what other teams will think of a 37-year-old quarterback. You don’t have any idea.
“Eli might say, ‘I’ve had enough. I’m feeling good, I’ve got a beautiful wife, three little girls, I’m healthy. And that’s it.’ So there’s no sense speculating.”
It’s safe to say, no matter what happens, it will take a lot to get Eli to choose to stay with the Giants. At a minimum, they’ll have to clean house and then hire new people who genuinely want Eli to stick around. Short of Tom Coughlin pulling a Billy Martin (or the Giants hiring someone like Manning family favorite David Cutcliffe to coach the team or Peyton to run the front office), it’s hard to imagine that ever happening.
Even if the team hires the perfect coach to convince Eli to stay, he could want a Donovan McNabb-style financial apology to both make up for what happened this week, and to provide a money-where-your-mouth-is commitment that it won’t be happening again.
The far more likely outcome is Eli moving on, with the Giants either trading him or cutting him before a $5 million roster bonus becomes due in the early days of the next league year.
To be traded, Eli would have to waive a no-trade clause. And why would he? If he’s going to go to a new team, it’s better for him if that new team has all players and draft picks at their disposal in order to help him win. If he tells the Giants to simply cut him and they call his bluff, a stare down could ensue. However, given the flack the Giants have taken for their bungling of his benching, the last thing they’ll want to do is set themselves up for another ugly P.R. fight with one of the most objectively likable quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen.
The easy part of this one is to figure out that Eli doesn’t want to stay with the Giants. The harder part is finding a new destination. And it’s entirely possible that Eli simply isn’t wired to do the Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning thing. Maybe Eli will follow the lead of Dan Marino, who eschewed an opportunity to take over a high-powered Minnesota offense in 2000 and closed the book on his career as a guy who played for only one team.
While Archie is right regarding the premature nature of speculation, maybe the wager shouldn’t be Jacksonville vs. the field but not the field vs. the field.