Eli Manning and I got off to a bad start.
There can’t be many worse looks than the photos of him looking miserable holding a Chargers jersey during the 2004 NFL Draft, all while he was forcing San Diego’s hand to trade him because he refused to play there.
What a difference 210 consecutive starts and two Super Bowl rings make.
In case you missed it, the N.Y. Giants are going with Geno Smith, a 27-year-old quarterback who failed miserably as a N.Y. Jet, at the helm in Oakland on Sunday.
This isn’t a sports column, per se. It’s a human interest column.
Since negotiating his trade to New York, albeit somewhat embarrassingly in the eyes of many of us middle-class Americans, Eli has won two Super Bowls and will go down as a Giants legend and a guy who could catch lightning in a bottle at any time.
Sure, his numbers are buoyed by his longevity, and his refusal to sit also has put him among the all-time leaders in interceptions. He’ll be a Hall of Famer nonetheless, in my humble opinion.
And here’s the thing: In a job where enormous men are trying to hurt you every chance they get, the guy started 210 consecutive games. During that time, every NFL team has started at least three different QBs. In Cleveland, they’ve trotted 24 different guys out there.
Has the game passed Eli by? My jury is out on that one. His team stinks. He’s got no offensive line, no running game, no good targets to throw to. How can a guy succeed without any capable teammates?
Here’s what’s bothered me the past day or so: The Giants (and there’s plenty of blame to go around, from owner John Mara down to soon-to-be-axed head coach Ben McAdoo) have sent a troubling message that anyone is replaceable. And they’re willing to replace Eli with a guy who has shown few to no signs he’s the guy to take the reins.
Yet there stood Eli on Tuesday, fighting back tears in front of his locker and fielding questions with aplomb. He’d already won me over when he turned down his bosses’ offer for him to start Sunday’s game and then hand it over to Smith in the second half.
So now the Giants are going with Smith.
Does that worry you? I hope not. I hope you’re like me, loving your job and feeling assured that your company has your back. Getting old stinks. Being 38, as I am, and being surprised regularly by how fast technology is advancing, I can’t help but wonder where I fit into the future.
Here’s what I hope for Manning. Thirteen years after his pout-fest on draft day, he puts his foot in the ground once again and demands a trade.
I know of two pretty doggone good teams in Jacksonville and Denver, which, with a capable quarterback, could be contenders.
Make it happen, Eli. By any means necessary.
• Christopher Heimerman is the news editor at the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.