They owe it to him.
The Giants owe it to Eli Manning to refrain from crummy football this Sunday.
It is his day. Manning gets inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor — the 43rd individual to get in — and becomes the 13th player to have his number retired by the Giants when his No. 10 gets put away for posterity. It would be a nice touch if the Giants currently wearing the unretired jerseys actually show up and give all involved something to cheer about.
So far, this season is another 0-2 stumble out of the gate, another departure from the success Manning eventually helped usher into the franchise. His ending was rocky, but the two Lombardi trophies in the lobby of the Giants’ training and practice facility stand as evidence of his impact.
“I just kind of choose to remember the good times in this stadium and the good times in my career and this will be another one I can add to that memory,’’ Manning said two weeks ago at the season opener.
Manning gets his moment during one of those halftime ceremonies that are always under time constraints, as players exit the field and the stadium operations crew hurries to erect the stage setup that will be disassembled as soon as the final plaudits come across the sound system.
If the home team is on the wrong end of the score at the half — heaven forbid, by double digits — it is nearly impossible for the trending atmosphere to make an instantaneous about-face. The festivities always feel a bit cringe-worthy when the team is getting booed while exiting as the guests of honor start ambling onto the field.
If this is how it goes down on Sunday you can pretty much start looking ahead to the 2022 NFL Draft. The Giants figured this out nicely, sprinkling in the flavorings of a Homecoming Weekend for Manning’s big day. You want an event like this early in the season, before the weather turns, and you want it on a day when the opponent should not be capable of coming into your house and rearranging all your furniture.
The Falcons are as hand-picked as you can get. They are, along with the Giants, one of seven NFL teams sporting 0-2 records. They have allowed the most points (80) in the league after losses to the Eagles (32-6 in Atlanta) and the Buccaneers (48-25). Some of this defensive ineptitude must get dumped on veteran-holding-on Matt Ryan, who handed the Bucs their final 14 points on a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions by Mike Edwards returned for touchdowns.
“Everybody feels sick when you see that box score, but there were some positives,” Arthur Smith, the Falcons first-year coach, said.
The Giants know the feeling. Their entire operation — ownership, the front office, multiple coaching staffs — compromised the final years of Manning’s career, unable to realize as he grew older, he required more help, especially in terms of protection from his offensive line. Instead of fortifying the foundation around their aging franchise quarterback, the Giants haphazardly threw some spackle and paint on all the leaks and cracks and the whole thing fell apart.
The Giants are obligated to give Manning a proper sendoff. It cannot be that way if the stench of a lousy first half remains acrid in the air as he gets behind the microphone.
“I think it will be emotional that day, just kind of one last true farewell and a thank you to the fans and the organization and all my teammates,’’ Manning said.
There is some symmetry to this. The only home playoff victory of Manning’s career came against the Falcons, a 24-2 NFC wild-card rout fueled by Manning’s three touchdown passes and a vice-grip, shutout-pitching defense. That was the jumping off point for the 2011 postseason Super Bowl run. Those were the good times. These are the bad times.
No time was worse than 2019 and the last vestiges of the Pat Shurmur mistake, as the Giants lost nine consecutive games. But the Giants finally got something right in Week 15, when they gave Manning a day to remember in his final start, and final NFL appearance, beating the Dolphins 36-20 in front of an appreciative MetLife Stadium crowd that chanted “Eli Manning … Eli Manning” after he tossed touchdown passes Nos. 364, 365 and 366 and he was taken out with 1:50 remaining.
Eli will take the field again, this Sunday, at halftime. It would be nice for all involved if the home team is not down big and not engaging in losing football.
The Falcons are coming to town. The Giants have it in their power to send Eli Manning off the right way.