You wouldn’t expect Eli Manning to embrace the pressures of playing quarterback in New York. A soft-spoken guy with a small-town sensibility and a modest manner, Manning nevertheless thrives in the harshest environment imaginable for an NFL quarterback.
What’s his secret? To hear Manning talk, it’s all about being himself. Growing up used to the pressure of being a Manning (following in the footsteps of a father who was an accomplished NFL quarterback and an older brother who was even better) didn’t hurt, either.
“When there’s pressure situations or you’re expected to do something or everybody’s looking at you, you can’t change your personality. You can’t change what your job is. You can’t think about those circumstances,” Manning told NFL Network’s Kurt Warner this week during a sitdown interview for “NFL GameDay Morning.”
So the vitriol that threatens to consume his crosstown counterpoint, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, rolls off Manning like water off a duck.
“There’s not a better place to win,” Manning said of New York. “(I’m) grateful for my fans and the way they’ve been patient with me and my career. And you know, I’m trying to get them another championship.”
It’s been an up-and-down ride for the Giants since winning Super Bowl XLII. They finished 12-4 the next season and won the NFC East but flopped in the playoffs, losing at home in the divisional round to the Eagles. They missed the playoffs in 2009. In 2010, Manning threw a career-high 25 interceptions, yet the Giants still went 10-6 and barely missed the playoffs after blowing a big lead against Philadelphia late in the year.
In light of that inglorious finish, Manning raised more than a few eyebrows this offseason when he said he considered himself to be in the same quarterback class as Tom Brady. Many fans clearly regarded him as an interception-prone mediocrity who caught lightning in a bottle once.
So Manning threw for a career-high 4,933 yards, beat the Cowboys twice to earn a playoff spot, outplayed Aaron Rodgers and triumphed over the hard-hitting San Francisco 49ers defense to earn a chance at ring No. 2. No one’s talking about luck now.
Manning says he’s definitely a better quarterback than he was in 2008, and he feels he’ll be ready for anything the Patriots throw at him Sunday.
“If, all of a sudden, New England comes out (and) they’re playing a different defense … than we prepare for, which is very common with them, we can make quick adjustments,” he told Warner. “I’ll be right on-page. And we can just, you know, not lose a beat.”
Catch the entire interview on “NFL GameDay Morning” Sunday at 9 a.m. ET, and follow NFL Network on Twitter @nflnetwork.