Eli Manning Discusses Daniel Jones And Why He Had So Much Fun Becoming Chad Powers

Eli Manning’s second act has gone pretty well. After retiring from the NFL as a two-time Super Bowl winner at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign, Manning has become one of the most engaging television personalities in the game. His weekly broadcast of Monday Night Football alongside his brother Peyton is must-watch, while he’s gotten his own show on ESPN+, Eli’s Places.

Recently, that show has led to the longtime New York Giants signal caller generating a ton of attention for a character named Chad Powers, who attempted to walk on as a quarterback at Penn State. Even he admits he’s surprised the character took off the way it did, to the point that there are rumblings that we could get a whole lot more of Powers sometime soon.

Uproxx Sports caught up with Manning this week via his partnership with IBM and the ESPN Fantasy Football app to discuss Powers, his recent love of fantasy football, the Giants, and more.

You took a trip to my alma mater over the summer and it turns out that just blew up — every group chat that I’m in, every Penn State grad that I know seems to have shared and loved it, and it went beyond us. Did you have any indication the whole Chad Powers thing was going to catch on like it did?

No, I didn’t know it would catch on quite like it did. I was excited for this show and this idea. We’d finished shooting everything, every other episode, really back in June and early July. We had to wait six weeks for the tryout day, to go to Penn State — I was looking forward to it just because … just the idea of getting to try out and getting to play football, I haven’t played in three years, I was antsy to get there and see if I could still throw it and make plays.

And there was really no script, just got to figure it out as you go. No one knows who Chad Powers is, go create him. Whatever comes out, make up stuff and just roll with it. And so that was the idea, and it was fun just seeing the reactions, seeing some of the coaches just very confused — like, “I know something’s going on, but I’m not quite sure what.” They were asking me a ton of questions, which is great, because then I get to make up more story about Chad. It was fun, I enjoyed it, and I’m glad that a lot of people have gotten to check it out and see it.

You were quite the college football player, but that was 20 or so years ago. What’s the biggest thing that you learned about what it’s like to be a college football player in 2022 from that experience?

Well, it’s all shotgun now as a quarterback. I didn’t take one snap under center during the tryout, it was all shotgun, shotgun footwork. That was very different than when I was there. I mean, we were still third-and-10 under center, dropping back in college. The game has changed a little bit, you are throwing the ball a lot more, but the offensive scheme is totally different.

You’re here because I hear you’ve become quite the fantasy football player. Is that right?

Since retirement, I’ve gotten into fantasy football, it’s been a lot of fun. I have to admit, my first year, I was very bad at it. I was drafting former teammates and friends of mine, it was all on a personal standpoint, I did not pay attention to any of the data that IBM or Watson and AI were telling me, I just went, hey, I played football, I know the game, I know who’s gonna be good. That didn’t work — Trade Analyzer was my biggest friend in trying to trade to get a decent team.

But now, my third year of doing it, my daughter and I are on the same team with a couple other friends and their kids in a league. And so that’s been a lot of fun, having her and getting her into the game. And so each week, the great thing about it, she sees one player play well the week before, she’s like, “Dad, we gotta get this guy on the team, did you see that catch? Let’s trade Ja’Marr Chase and get this guy.” And I’m like, no, let’s just put that in the Trade Analyzer, let’s see if that’s a good idea. It comes back, no, bad idea, and she listens to it each week, we look at the boom and bust and we make decisions.

I’ve gotten into it, and I think with IBM and Watson and all the data and information, it’s not just the hard stats, they’re looking at the podcasts and the blogs and what’s going on, what’s being said, really just getting great information. So, it’s been fun. I’m a little more involved and into it than I thought I would get into it having not played before.

Why did you wait until after your playing days? Was it just scratching that competitive itch, does the NFL have some rules about this, or was it, “hey, you know, I just don’t know if this is for me”?

I had the real game to worry about. I was trying to learn plays and I was trying to win games and compete, and I just didn’t need to worry about it. Who am I starting this week? Oh, it’s Thursday at six, I have to set my lineup, who’s playing Thursday night? I wouldn’t have been focused, I wouldn’t have been committed to it. And so, even the first year I did it, I didn’t know what my commitment would be, if I would be into it or not. But it’s just fun, it’s fun watching other teams and rooting for guys. Even with my daughter, getting her involved into it, and we’re watching our players, but she wants to watch the other players, and we’re on a group text chain with all the parents and kids, and there’s trash talk going on.

It’s made a fun environment and a little bit of a different way to watch football. I still watch the Giants and I root for them, but now, Sundays, you’re peeking in at moments and [wondering] how’s my team doing? Hey, who should we watch? We need this player on Monday night to have a big game, you gonna watch a little bit with me? It gets the kids into it and that’s what makes it fun. That’s a great thing about fantasy football, it gets people to know more about players all across the league and what they’re doing, it gets them watching games they normally wouldn’t watch because of their team.

You brought them up, let’s talk about the Giants — 2-1 this year, the one came last night. Obviously you never want to lose but I feel like you can always take away a couple of positives from losses, things to build on. What were the biggest things that jumped out from last night’s game against the Cowboys?

Well, I think they came out in the second half and played really well. And they just got to figure out how to get a little quicker start, and I thought last night, they started up tempo that first drive, they didn’t move the ball, had to settle for a field goal that, unfortunately, got blocked. But I thought they did a lot of good things, are finding ways to keep games close in the fourth quarter, they just couldn’t quite make the plays they needed last night. That’s gonna happen, they made some plays in the other games to put us in that situation.

So, I think the confidence is there that they can win those games, they can make those plays in critical moments. You saw there were a couple plays that were there on the sidelines in the fourth quarter, they just didn’t complete them. So, they’re putting themselves in positions to win these games. You’re not going to win every one, but I think they’re playing good football and they feel good about where they are right now.

I want to ask about two guys before we wrap up, the first one is Daniel. Obviously you were there for day one for him, and with the understanding you haven’t been around him every single day, where’s the area as you watch that you’ve seen him grow the most compared to when he was just a rookie?

Well, I think Daniel’s just learned the timing of the NFL, and I think he’s done a good job of making better decisions, understanding coverages and looks and “nothing’s gonna be open right here, I can tuck and run and get positive yards,” and not holding it waiting, waiting for something to maybe open up. I thought last night Daniel played really well in a tough environment, tough situation, a lot of pressure coming — he took five sacks but also saved maybe six or seven sacks from happening just by moving in the pocket, scrambling, keeping his eyes downfield, making plays, running when he had to.

He never let the pressure and taking those hits and the constant movement in the pocket make him make a bad decision and turn the ball over. That’s how you have to win these games, be patient, it might be tough at first, but don’t make the big mistakes. That can keep you in the game into those fourth quarters and then make some great plays. I thought he threw a couple of great balls in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, you have a wide receiver trip coming out of a break, threw an interception. Those hurt. Those are unfortunate. So, I thought he played a solid game and put the team in a situation to win these games.

The other guy is Saquon. The last two years have obviously been a bit rough for him, but I think he’s looking like Saquon Barkley again. As someone who has lined up in a backfield next to him, what does him being at his best do for the other 10 guys on the field with him?

Well, I think it puts a lot of attention … the defense pays him a lot of attention, and so it should free up the outside for a little bit more man to get some explosive plays, hit guys on the move where you can throw it short and get guys running. So, it’s just a matter of everybody coming together and everybody doing their role, also making the plays when you get the opportunity. But he’s still a guy you want to find ways to get the ball in his hands — run the ball, screen, put him out wide, just move him around. He’s so talented that you can try to create some mismatches and you don’t just have to hand it off to him and there’s gonna be eight guys in the box trying to stop them. You can move him around and try to get the ball to him in space, because he’s one tackle away from making a big play every time.