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As Eli Manning Retires, His Ties with Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

On the day Eli Manning officially retires, it's hard not to remember the ways the long-time Giants quarterback was tied to the Cardinals and Arizona.

-- The Cardinals could have used a quarterback in the 2004 draft, and maybe Manning would've been the guy had Josh McCown not thrown his miracle TD pass to Nate Poole on the final play of the 2003 season, which pushed the Cardinals from the No. 1 overall pick to No. 3.

-- Manning was drafted No. 1 by the Chargers. The Cardinals, at No. 3, took wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The Chargers, of course, dealt Manning to the Giants.

-- (Yes, it's possible and maybe even probable Denny Green would've made sure Fitz was the Cardinals pick at No. 1 anyway. Fitz believes that. But those are discussions for another day.)

-- With Manning the rookie on the bench, the Giants got off to a decent start in 2004, but after the Giants came to Sun Devil Stadium in November, the Cards sacked Giants QB Kurt Warner six times -- four by Bertrand Berry -- in a Cardinals' win, and even though New York still had a winning record, coach Tom Coughlin decided it was time to bench Warner and start the Eli era, which essentially lasted through the beginning of this season and at one point included 210 consecutive games.

-- Manning's role meant the Giants let Warner go, and the Cardinals signed Warner as a free agent in 2005. That turned out pretty well, I'd say.

-- Manning's top highlight in his career -- the throw to David Tyree and the helmet-catch, leading the Giants to beat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl in the 2007 season -- came at State Farm Stadium.

-- Manning played well in the 2008 meeting between the Cardinals and Giants in Arizona, with the Giants winning, 37-29. The Giants were the NFC's No. 1 seed that year. If they would've knocked off the Eagles in frigid New York during the NFC Divisional Round -- the day after the Cards posted their big upset in Carolina Saturday night -- the Cards would've had to play in the cold of New York in the NFC Championship. Instead, the Giants lost, the Cardinals got to host the NFC title game, and the rest is history. (At least, the rest being making the Super Bowl.)

-- Manning and Fitz shared the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2016.

-- The Cardinals split the six games with the Giants which Manning started (Manning was the backup this season when Chandler Jones sacked Daniel Jones four times in a Cards' win.) His last appearance against the Cards was at State Farm Stadium in 2017, when the Cards picked him off twice in a 23-0 win -- Bruce Arians' final home game as Cardinals' coach.

-- Meanwhile, all these years later, Fitzgerald keeps going. With Manning retiring, there are now six players left from the 2004 draft still active, and we'll see what the offseason means whether they all stay with Fitz for a 17th season. One will for sure -- Cardinals punter Andy Lee. The Steelers are counting on the return of QB Ben Roethlisberger. Does Patriots TE Ben Watson or Falcons backup QB Matt Schaub keep going? And what about QB Philip Rivers, whose time with the Chargers -- necessitated when Manning refused to play for the Chargers, forcing a draft-day trade all those years go -- seems over?

Larry Fitzgerald and Eli Manning talk after the Cardinals and Giants played in 2017.
Larry Fitzgerald and Eli Manning talk after the Cardinals and Giants played in 2017.

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