The news of Eli Manning's benching (and his emotional reaction) had me thinking of a lot of different ways Manning has direct and indirect ties to the Cardinals over the years.
-- Tangibly, the Giants play in Arizona on Christmas Eve. Once it was supposed to be Eli versus Carson Palmer and possibly for playoff positioning. Now, we're looking at a likely matchup of Blaine Gabbert against -- if reports from New York pan out -- rookie Davis Webb by then. Maybe Geno Smith. Probably not Eli though.
-- The 2004 draft was pretty good for some big-name talents, but the years are starting to whittle at the list. Manning was the top pick, and now, what happens with him? Is it possible he is done for good? Just done as a Giant? Already, Larry Fitzgerald (No. 3 overall pick) and Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11) have talked about retirement being an option. No. 4 pick Philip Rivers once talked retirement instead of moving from San Diego to L.A., but then he re-thought things and shredded the Cowboys for 400-plus on Thanksgiving. (It was also the 10-year anniversary of the death of No. 5 overall pick Sean Taylor a couple of days ago.)
-- Manning won an amazing Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium, when David Tyree pinned that ball to his helmet and then Manning made the perfect TD pass to Plaxico Burress -- who was a Cardinals' coaching intern this past training camp.
-- And then, of course, it was Manning's "role" in the Cardinals' lone trip to the Super Bowl. If it wasn't for Eli, Kurt Warner may never have come to the Cardinals. Warner signed with the Giants the same year Manning was drafted and everyone knew what was going to happen. ("We had a great understanding when he came, we were basically going to try and use each other," then-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi told me the following offseason, after Warner signed with the Cards.) But it was the Cardinals who sped up the process.
It was the struggling Cardinals who sacked Warner six times at Sun Devil Stadium -- four by Bertrand Berry, pictured -- and had Giants coaches in the press box screaming "Throw the ball!" as Warner held on to it when he was taken down. The Giants had been 5-2, fell to 5-4 with the loss and were still in the playoff hunt -- but the next game, Manning was in the lineup to begin the 210-consecutive-game starting streak that looks like it will end Sunday.
Warner came to Arizona the next year and eventually wrote the back half of his Hall of Fame career. Manning won two Super Bowls, so the Giants made out well. And today? Today we're seeing the truth of all truths: Whether the Giants are making the right call or not to close out 2017, time is undefeated.