Eli Manning and The Giants: How One Year Makes All The Difference

David GellerAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 11:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

One year ago, the Giants spent the final Wednesday before their opener against Washington privately coordinating Michael Strahan’s arrival at Giants Stadium for the first time since his retirement.


A calendar year later, the preparation and focus has shifted elsewhere. While similar faces remain, the swagger from the 2007 Super Bowl victory has dissipated and a new vibe has infiltrated Giants camp: skepticism.


While last year’s Giants team bared its share of weaknesses coming out of the preseason, the city was still numb from the Super Bowl run that had transpired eight months early. These Giants were playing with house money, and even the most demanding of Giants fans were willing to concede that in September.


Need proof? Halfway through the third quarter Eli Manning lofted one of his nausea inducing passes 10 yards over the head of Kevin Boss and into the waiting arms of Fred Smoot. It was the exact type of pass that defined his performance against Minnesota or Washington the prior season and drew the ire of talking heads everywhere.


The reaction? The boisterous opening-night crowd had been silenced, but instead of jeers or boos in Manning’s direction it sounded more like Jack Cust hit a single at Yankees Stadium rather than a potentially game changing interception. Unwavering silence protruded throughout the stadium.


This honeymoon period prevailed throughout the regular season, and for good reason. Manning was playing well, as was the whole team as they compiled a 7-1 record at home in 2008.


However, in the playoffs, Manning conjured the memories of his off days with a pitiful performance that culminated in no touchdowns and two interceptions—and a crushing loss to a divisional rival in the team’s first playoff game.


Fans were distraught over the loss, but the reaction at the stadium to Manning’s performance wasn’t nearly as ruthless as his other poor games.


While Manning ticketed himself into the hearts of Giants fans forever with his magical 2007 post-season, the silence that followed Fred Smoot’s opening night interception will not be present this Sunday.


There is no complacency within this fan base and media. With a wide receiver corps that desperately needs to prove itself Manning must once again reassert why he was the Giants number one overall pick in 2004. And why he’s the league’s highest paid quarterback.


But if he struggles on Sunday and passes are caught by the players boasting white and red, the boos and restlessness will be prominent in Giants Stadium once again.