Full disclosure: I love Eli Manning. He's without a doubt my favorite athlete ever. I grew up with him, watched him miraculously win my New York Giants a pair of Super Bowls against what's become the greatest franchise in NFL history. If Eli came out to the 50-yard line at
Giants Stadium the Grey Dungeon at the Meadowlands MetLife Stadium in week 2 against Buffalo and took a dump in the center of the field and walked off, I'd give him a standing ovation. He's a Hall of Famer, and, let's be honest, probably the second greatest player in the history of the organization.
That said, I'm not dumb enough to not realize that his time has definitely come, and it probably came two seasons ago when he was benched, only for the fanbase (myself included) to revolt, in turn getting him back on the field. He'll have a decent season this year, one serviceable enough for the Giants to go 7-9, and then it'll really be over. It's sad, but it's time.
That's what makes the photo you are about to see the saddest Eli Manning photo of all time, which I realize is saying a LOT. This is a guy who has made so many dumb faces in pictures and GIFs during his career that if you type in "Eli Manning face" on Giphy you could scroll for hours. Last year, when the Giants sent him out to die in week 1 in Dallas behind an offensive line that a peewee team could have embarrassed, Eli made the most Eli face he's ever made, and he deservedly got roasted. But given his current career situation, this photo from the Giants locker room following their preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals might have topped it:
Maybe the media spoke with Eli first, maybe I'm reading too much into it. But after another strong performance from Daniel Jones ("it's just preseason!" yell the same people who dubbed him the worst player in football history after he threw one pass in training camp), this image of Eli putting on his dad shoes in his dad Oxford shirt and dad grey pants, with that same mouth-breathing look he's sported since he arrived on earth, while his eventual replacement is surrounded by cameras and microphones right next to his locker, is so incredibly depressing, at least for me. For the Eli haters, it's probably a big laugh riot, thus making it even more heartbreaking.
Knowing Eli, the last thing on his mind was the gaggle of reporters talking to the shiny new toy in the locker room. In fact, he was probably thrilled they weren't asking him questions to which he'd respond "we need to get better" and "it's about making plays" and "hey, ya know, hey, we need to get better and, um, make more plays." He's going to show up every Sunday this season until they tell him he can't show up anymore. He's going to take his beating, throw off-his-back-foot interceptions, miss wide open receivers, and maybe even toss a few vintage Eli moments in there and win some games. And that's why you gotta love him.