Eli Manning bid farewell to the Giants and the NFL on Friday, officially announcing his retirement after bringing two Super Bowl titles to Big Blue over 16 seasons as their quarterback.
“This sport has very few real farewells,” Manning said at the podium inside the Giants’ practice facility adjacent to MetLife Stadium. “It’s impossible to explain the satisfaction, and 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’ve made the fans, the media and even the front office more comfortable if I was a more rah-rah guy. But that’s not me. Ultimately I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learned to appreciate that. They knew what they got was pure unadulterated Eli.”
Giants co-owner John Mara also announced that the Giants will induct Manning into their Ring of Honor next season and “no one ever will wear No. 10 again.”
“This is certainly a day of very mixed emotions for us,” Mara said. “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 to that 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 with the Giants, something that doesn’t always happen in this business.
“If anybody deserved that opportunity it’s Eli Manning. The last 16 years Eli has meant so much to all of us here with the giants and our fans. We all know about the two Super Bowl MVPs 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.”
Manning, 39, departs as the franchise record-holder for most passing yards (57,023) and touchdown passes (366). He also is one of only five players in NFL history to have won Super Bowl MVP honors multiple times, after leading the Giants to championships following the 2007 and 2011 seasons.
The Giants obtained the former Ole Miss star’s rights on draft day in 2004, as former GM Ernie Accorsi traded up with San Diego to grab the No.1 overall selection in a swap involving quarterback Philip Rivers, who was picked at No. 4.
Mara, who called it “probably the best trade in franchise history,” also fought back tears as he recounted a conversation with his father, longtime Giants owner Wellington Mara, after Manning had led the Giants to a comeback victory over Dallas at the end of his rookie season.
“It was the last game my father ever saw and said to me, ‘I think we’ve found our guy,’” John Mara recalled.
Accorsi, former Giants coach Tom Coughlin, and several current and former teammates – including Michael Strahan, Plaxico Burress, David Tyree, Brandon Jacobs, Amani Toomer, Hakeem Nicks and Manning’s replacement at quarterback, Daniel Jones – were in attendance.
For more on Eli’s retirement, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast: