There’s a leadership class being taught this fall in New York City. The instructor is one Elisha Nelson Manning IV of Isidore Newman School, who is giving a clinic on how to look adversity in the eye and be a pro’s pro.
In the days before the Giants’ 10th loss of the season, the club announced that Manning would not start at quarterback, ending his streak of consecutive starts at 210. The Giants offered Eli a chance to start to keep the streak alive, but then leave the field at some point in the game.
Manning declined. He said it would not be fair, especially to the quarterback who replaced him, Geno Smith.
Former teammates rushed to defend the two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. On Twitter, former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress expressed shock: “Bench Eli?” said Burress. “My man has shown up every week for 14 years.”
Former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, now the executive vice president of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was mystified.
“Surprise isn’t the word,” said Coughlin. “My sentiments are totally with Eli Manning. I love the kid.”
Manning, just days short of his 37th birthday, then went all grown up with his next move. He defended head coach Ben McAdoo.
“I am not mad at anybody,” said Eli after a 24-17 loss at Oakland. “I don’t want anybody to get fired.”
Manning went on to say that when a coach gets fired, it usually is because players, including himself, weren’t getting the job done.
That is as classy an answer as there can be, especially from a quarterback who has played behind bad offensive lines for years, has suffered through bad drafts and watched his best offensive weapon, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., go out with a season-ending injury.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was a tad less subtle. Rivers said the benching of Manning was “pathetic.”
“He has the respect of the locker room and the rest of the league,” Rivers said.
In a league with a dearth of quality quarterbacks, the market for Eli’s services should be substantial. He’s durable, and he’s played his best in big games.
In Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots, Manning completed 30-of-40 passes and drove the Giants 88 yards to score the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute to play.
If you are an NFL head coach, you are watching Manning’s so-called intangibles soar off the charts.
Humorist Mark Twain said: “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience.”
Eli has risen above the fray. It is his finest moment. In the meantime, his class on leadership, free and open to the public, continues.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at email@example.com.