Eli Manning went 1-6 as a starter as a rookie quarterback in 2004, then went eight consecutive years without a losing season. The franchise downturn the past few years dropped his record precipitously close to .500, and it dipped below the break-even mark, at 116-117, with the loss Monday night to the Eagles, Manning’s first start in 12 weeks.
Manning said he had no idea what his career regular-season record was, thus did not give the drop below .500 any thought. He could even his record to 117-117 if he beats the Dolphins on Sunday in what could be his final career start, once again subbing for injured rookie Daniel Jones.
In 10 starts, Jones has a passer rating of 84.0. Manning, in three starts, is at 82.6. Manning struggled much more starkly when he was a rookie, often failing to play at a competitive level as he lost his first six starts. Looking back, he recalls those tough times as essential in his development, just as Jones has endured growing pains as he won his first two starts, then lost eight straight.
“Yeah, I think it’s very beneficial just to have that experience the first year, just to go through the ups and downs,’’ Manning said. “Have the good plays and have the bad plays to learn from. I think it just helps you so much into the offseason knowing how you had to prepare and know coverages and know defenses and know protections. How to prepare for each week and each scheme, every defense is different. Similar coverage, played differently. I think it’s just important to learn all of those things and start getting a base for what you need to improve on and what you’ve got to work on in the offseason.’’
Manning 16 years ago benefited from learning behind Kurt Warner, a veteran who had already won a Super Bowl with the Rams. Even after he was benched, Warner served as a positive force for Manning to lean on. Likewise, Manning tried his best to show Jones the ropes and offer anything he could to help the rookie improve.
“Being around Kurt was huge,’’ Manning said. “Just a guy who had great success. I think you see how he worked, how he prepared, how he got ready for each and every week, drawing up plays and asking questions. Just the attention to detail that he had I think was great for me to see firsthand how it’s supposed to be done.’’
If this is it for Manning, he goes out against a quarterback nearly as old as he is. Unlike Manning — who has only suited up for the Giants — Ryan Fitzpatrick’s long and winding NFL road has been a nomadic experience. The Dolphins are his eighth team. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions and has kept Josh Rosen on the bench.
Fitzpatrick is coming off a 65-yard rushing game in a 22-21 loss to the Jets and, shockingly, figures to lead the Dolphins in rushing this season. He is at 186 yards. The team leader, Mark Walton, has 201 yards but is no longer on the roster.
“I have moves that a 37-year-old white guy would have,’’ Fitzpatrick said this week. “I look the same way on the field as I do on the dance floor, and that’s why I don’t dance at weddings.”
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