Eli Manning looks forward after worst season of career
By BARRY WILNER
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) Eli Manning is looking ahead. Who wouldn't after the year he just had?
Manning comes off the worst season of his professional career that dates back to being the top overall selection in the 2004 draft. His Giants went from likely contender after making the 2016 playoffs to one of the NFL's worst.
They were ravaged by injuries, dissension in the locker room, and then-coach Ben McAdoo even benched his quarterback in Week 13, ending Manning's 210-game starting string.
McAdoo was fired the next week, the usually well-run franchise was embarrassed as badly as for any of the 13 defeats in 2017, and though Manning immediately got his job back, the Giants ended the year as one of the NFL's biggest flops.
"It was a great reminder that nothing is guaranteed," Manning said Friday. "No matter what you did the year before - win your division, make the playoffs, whatever - it has no effect on the next year.
"So there's no reason we can't win 11 or more games this year. We made a lot of changes and will make more, and if we stay healthy and win some of those close games you always get in, who knows?"
Besides, that lost season serves as an impetus for the future.
"When you have a tough year, you use it as motivation," he said. "Get back in there and do whatever you need to do to make changes. Make a commitment again to playing at a higher level. It challenges you and makes you hungrier."
The two-time Super Bowl MVP has a new coach in Pat Shurmur, who like McAdoo has a background as a QB guru. Unlike the rough-edged McAdoo, though, Shurmur has a smoother style and also is more open in his thinking and planning for running an offense.
To Manning, 37, an opportunity to expand the attack is much welcomed.
"We've talked a bit, getting to know each other, but there's a limit how much you can meet and talk," Manning said.
"I am excited to start learning the offense and the playbook and how Pat will use our skillsets. He's got a combination of Norv Turner, Andy Reid and Chip Kelly in there from the places he's been.
"There's definitely an adjustment, but if you've played the game long enough, there are only so many new plays you can put in."
Manning smiled when he said that, knowing Shurmur isn't about to design a Russell Wilson/Cam Newton type of offense for him.
There's been much speculation that Manning could be traded and the Giants would use the second overall pick in April on one of the highly rated quarterbacks in this draft. The choice of Shurmur and ownership's devotion to Manning seems to have made Manning's departure unlikely.
Asked if he'd encourage new general manager Dave Gettleman to take an offensive lineman to offer the kind of protection he doesn't get often enough, Manning laughed and replied, "I won't complain."
He certainly won't complain about getting back his prime target, Odell Beckham Jr. The spectacular receiver was lost in early October to a broken ankle. Beckham is enough of a difference maker that New York might have had a few more victories had he been available all season.
"He's a tremendous player, and when he gets back and is healthy, he impacts games," Manning said. "It's tough when guys you work with all spring and summer and you lose them and have all new guys. Odell, Brandon (Marshall), Sterling (Shepard)."
Manning spent part of the day welcoming visitors to a Courtyard by Marriott experience whose contest winners will spend Saturday night sleeping in a luxury suite at U.S. Bank Stadium.
He joked that he can't ever remember sleeping in a stadium, but that waking up the morning of the Super Bowl at the venue would be "pretty neat to do."
Then he wondered just how quiet the stadium would be on Super Bowl eve.
"You're right there in the dome and get to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff," he said. "Then you wake up on Super Bowl Sunday right there. Has to be a wonderful experience."
Considering he is 2-0 in the big game, Manning knows about wonderful Super Bowl experiences.
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Updated February 3, 2018