At the end of October, after the New York Giants had stumbled off to their second consecutive 1–6 start, the freshman general manager Dave Gettleman posted a figurative estate-sale sign on the team’s locker-room door and challenged his fellow GMs to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse. With the deadline looming on the most hectic mid-season trade period in recent memory, on October 25 Gettleman shipped Damon Harrison (an All-Pro defensive tackle playing the third year of a five-year, $46 million free-agent pact) to Detroit in exchange for a fifth-round pick in next spring’s NFL draft.*
Twenty-four hours earlier, Gettleman also sent Eli Apple (an underachieving cornerback whom the Giants scooped up with the 10th overall selection in 2016) to New Orleans and yielded fourth- and seventh-round draft choices in that bargain, which pro-football followers greeted with a fair amount of head scratching at first. The longer the news lingered without a correction, the more Giants supporters and skeptics agreed: They traded away the wrong Eli.
Pity Eli Manning, maybe the least respected good quarterback there ever was. Despite his impeccable gridiron pedigree (Archie Manning, the much-beloved former Saints quarterback, is his father; Peyton Manning, the five-time league MVP and two-time Super Bowl champion, is his older brother), the 37-year-old Giants signal caller has never quite fit the role of fair-haired cornerstone to one of the NFL’s blue-blooded franchises. Who could forget how he barged into New York after a record-setting tear at Ole Miss, spurned the San Diego Chargers (the team that would pick him first in the ’04 draft), and forced one of the most consequential trades in NFL history?