If this is truly Eli Manning’s Last Stand with the New York Football Giants, there is no doubt that the Eagles and their fans will be happy to see him go.
But on a day when he threw for 434 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, when he scared the heck out of the Eagles and came within the longest 11 yards of one of the more improbable comebacks of his Hall of Fame career, Manning, a 34-29 loser, made this compelling 11th-hour case for the next general manager and head coach to want him back next season every bit as much as John Mara wants him back.
On a day when Manning denied hearing a thundering chant of “Dee-Fense, Dee-Fense, Dee-Fense” before a second-and-19 early in the fourth quarter — while he was commanding his huddle instead of standing on the Giants sidelines.
So this was LincolnFinancialLife Stadium as much as it was MetLife Stadium.
But still Manning, lifting his battered and bloodied team in a way that he has been unable to lift it all season, was 11 yards away from overcoming ghastly special-teams follies and the customary defensive ineptitude and simultaneously killing two birds with one stone by putting the Eagles’ designs on the No. 1 seed in the NFC in peril.
Manning, fourth-and-goal, had been only 6 yards away from shutting up these Eagles fans until a false start on right tackle Bobby Hart pushed him back.
“I don’t blame Bobby … [center] Brett Jones couldn’t hear me call the cadence,” Manning said. “I guess when you only win two games, you got a lot of Eagles fans and they were loud, and we couldn’t hear the cadence, that’s why we jumped offside.”
Manning tried a back-shoulder throw to Evan Engram, no interference call in the back of the end zone against Corey Graham.
I asked Manning if it bothered him that all these Eagles fans were making all that noise.
“Well, it bothers me in the sense where I don’t blame our fans, it bothers me in the sense that that’s the way that this season’s turned out. … We didn’t do our part. … You’re playing late in the year, and you’re not playing for a spot in the playoffs … so it bothers me from that sense,” Manning said.
It was the ninth 400-plus-yard game of his career. It was his 10th 300-yard-plus game against the Eagles. He has thrown more TD passes (51) versus the Eagles than any other team.
“I think we had a good plan to get the ball out quickly, and guys did a good job of getting open,” Manning said.
Namely Sterling Shepard (11 rec., 139 yards, 1 TD) and Evan Engram (8, 87) and Tavarres King (2, 70, 2 TDs). Manning threw them open with slants and slant-and-go’s and yards after catch did the rest.
“He was just laser-focused, just locked in,” Engram said. “That’s the 10 we know, that’s the 10 I’ve watched for so many years and it was definitely a great battle. It was great to be out with him today and battle.”
Manning was asked about John Mara stating that he would want Manning back in 2018.
“Hey, I want to be back next year as well,” Manning said. “I love playing for the New York Giants, I love this organization, appreciate everything they’ve done for me, and I try to give back everything that I have to this organization and to this team. I hope to be back as well.”
Mara has his fingers crossed that the next GM — Dave Gettleman interviews first — will build a wall in front of Manning. It is just one game, but it is one game when Manning threw for 434 yards with no Odell Beckham Jr. There were several inaccurate throws, there always are with him, and a near second interception, but that arm didn’t look weeks short of 37 years old.
“A lot of up-tempo, playing fast, gives us a great opportunity to be successful,” Manning said.
“Still feel like I can play at a high level, make plays and make throws and win football games.”
So we can now shut the door on Davis Webb. When interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo was asked if Manning would be the starter in Arizona, he said: “That’s a pretty good assessment.”
You either completely blow it up by drafting a quarterback, or you build the roster up around Manning as long as Webb is viewed as the heir apparent.
“He’s one of the best in my eyes to ever play this game,” Shepard told The Post, “so why not have him back?”
One vote here for Eli Manning in 2018.