ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's been a rough offseason for the New York Giants. Following two straight losing seasons and three without a playoff appearance, the Giants have been dealing with injuries to key players such as Will Beatty and Jason Pierre-Paul and question marks in key positions such as safety and left tackle. Victor Cruz and Jon Beason aren't physically ready to start the season. The pressure is on head coach Tom Coughlin, who recently expressed exasperation about the offseason coverage of his team.
"They're all negative," Coughlin told Giants.com. "Everything is negative."
Well, not everything, Tom. The news late last week that Giants quarterback Eli Manning has signed a four-year contract extension that runs through 2019 is a reminder for the Giants and their fans that things aren't all bad. Whatever else the Giants have going on, they're one of the few teams in the league that knows it has a franchise quarterback. As legitimate as the reasons for concerns are, Manning's presence under center is the main reason you can never really write off this team. And the value of that goes well beyond the four years and $84 million the Giants just added to Manning's deal.
"I've said it many times, and I'll say it again: He's our quarterback, he's the guy that's our leader," Coughlin said in the team's press release announcing the extension. "He's been an MVP of two Super Bowls. He's a great player and we are excited to have this accomplished."
We all know what Manning is not. He's not his brother. He's not Tom Brady. He's had seasons in which he's thrown way too many interceptions. His greatest successes have come when surrounded by great supporting casts. Manning's detractors shake their heads at an extension that keeps Manning among the highest-paid players in the game into his late 30s.
But it's more important to remember what Manning is. He's a quarterback who literally plays every game -- having not missed a start since becoming the starter in his rookie season of 2004. He's a quarterback about whom no one has to ask, "Can we win a Super Bowl with this guy?" The Giants know they can, because they have. Twice. And as the face of a franchise that plays in the New York market, he's been a flawless representative of the team on and off the field. He's respected around the league and revered in his own locker room, where he's both the best practical joker and the player whose voice gets taken most seriously when he raises it.
What the Giants have with Manning is as valuable as any commodity in the NFL. When you move up three spots in the first round and trade high picks to get your franchise quarterback, what are you hoping for? That he stays healthy, wins you a couple of Super Bowls and plays his whole career in your uniform. Check, check and now check on those points for Manning and the Giants, whose main reason for hope and optimism will start under center wearing No. 10 on Sunday night as usual.