Longtime New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning said Thursday he was "surprised" to find out Tom Brady was leaving the New England Patriots to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, but he doesn't believe that necessarily marks the end of the Pats' dynasty.
"I was surprised, how it all worked out. I just did not imagine him leaving, them letting him go and him going somewhere else, just from my experience. But for him to have had all the success, do everything he'd done in New England and did it with one organization, I guess you just kind of wonder what was the reasoning? I don't know if he felt unappreciated, or just wanted to try something different, but was surprised that this went down."
The 39-year-old New Orleans native believes the continued presence of head coach Bill Belichick will help keep the Patriots in contention even without the three-time MVP leading the offense, per Serby:
"I think they still have a very good team, a great defense, great coaches. Obviously Tom was a very important part on their success over the years, but I think they have kind of a way and they have a system that Belichick has implemented there that I think will continue to find ways to have success, but it will be different. If they go out and get a new quarterback, or stay with the guys they have, it might not be as it's been in the past."
Manning also expressed confidence Philip Rivers, who he was traded for during the 2004 NFL draft, can continue to make an impact after leaving the Los Angeles Chargers to join the Indianapolis Colts:
"Philip did not leave his hometown [San Diego] when the Chargers left San Diego and went to LA. For him to change organizations and go somewhere else, it'll be interesting. Obviously I think he can still play at a high level, he can still throw it and is smart and will do everything possible. They have some good weapons and are a good team, and so I think he will be able to help 'em and play well."
Manning and the Giants were one of the few teams to find success against the Patriots during the Brady era with victories in Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI. If not for those one-score wins, the Pats would have racked up eight titles in a 17-year span.
Along with those two championships, the Ole Miss product finished his NFL career with four Pro Bowl selections and the seventh-most passing yards in league history (57,023)—one spot below Rivers (59,271).
He was limited to four appearances last season, however, as New York began its transition to Daniel Jones as its new franchise quarterback. The rookie impressed with 26 total touchdowns (24 passing and two rushing) in 13 appearances despite the team's 3-9 record in his 12 starts.
Manning told Serby that Jones' development could be hindered by a coaching change—Joe Judge was hired in January to replace Pat Shurmur—at a time when NFL offseason team activities are delayed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic:
"It has the potential to be. A couple of things could make it difficult in the fact that it's gonna be a new offense that he's gotta learn, and things get pushed back and you're not there to be around your teammates. It's not just him learning it, it's kind of everybody learning it together. Hopefully they can get back soon and he can grow as a leader of the team."
Meanwhile, Manning told the New York Post he hasn't thrown a football since the Giants' final game of 2019 and has no plans to do so in the immediate future as he remains at home with his family amid COVID-19.
The next stop on his football journey will likely be the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though it's up for debate whether he'll be a first-ballot inductee when he becomes eligible in five years.