INDIANAPOLIS -- Late last night, in an apartment in New York City, the man responsible for bringing Eli Manning to the New York Giants was lighting up a victory cigar, just like many other New Yorkers. But for Ernie Accorsi, the former general manager of the Giants, his cigar celebration had to be the sweetest of them all.
Eight years into his NFL career, Manning is everything Accorsi hoped he would become. He won his second championship on Sunday night, earning his second Super Bowl MVP and securing his place in Canton. Accorsi was bold in his move to secure Manning, willing to trade assets to acquire his services, as opposed to just sticking with Philip Rivers or opting for Ben Roethlisberger -- two other highly rated quarterbacks in the 2004 NFL Draft. At that time, it felt like a risky move. It was expensive in terms of the draft picks, but most of all, it just seemed at the time that Eli was not as good as his older brother, Peyton, or ever would be.
Accorsi's player evaluation has been proven right all year -- with Manning's elite talent carrying the Giants to the franchise's fourth Super Bowl championship (and eighth overall title) -- but his overall instincts about what special qualities Eli possessed was clairvoyant. Sunday night, Manning was beyond special, outshining New England Patriots icon Tom Brady yet again.
Figuring their offense would score more than 17 points, the Patriots' defensive game plan was simple: Keep Manning from making a big play and hunker down in the red zone. Forget the yards, just make the Giants earn their points. And New England executed that plan well. However, Manning quickly realized the strategy and never panicked, never got impatient. Eli just kept making the right reads, the right decisions, the right throws. And when the youngest Manning had to make a throw down the field in crunch time, Eli delivered an absolute strike to receiver Mario Manningham, who made a great catch on his end.
Manning spread the ball around to different receivers all night, taking what the Patriots gave him, never forcing a ball or becoming frustrated that he could not make the big play. His play won him Super Bowl XLVI MVP and his overall talent brought another championship to New York, but it was his game maturity that impressed me the most.
With a second Super Bowl win, Eli is the winningest Manning in the first family of quarterbacking. I'm sure Peyton is extremely proud of his little brother, but also envious of the team around Eli. The Giants have done a wonderful job building around their franchise quarterback. General manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin, as well as every member of the Giants organization, deserve applause for the fantastic job they have done in constructing this group.
But without Accorsi's initial vision, without his willingness to take a chance, these two championships might have never happen. And for that, Accorsi should light up a victory cigar every day this week.
Things I loved
» I loved that for all the talk about how the Giants' defensive line was going to dominate, their secondary actually won the game. The Patriots were not able to make ANY big plays down the field, as their longest play went for just 21 yards. New York's pass rush got better late, but the coverage was the real difference in the game.
» I love that punter Steve Weatherford was a huge factor in the game once again. His punting all season was great, but he was particularly exceptional in the two games against the Patriots. Weatherford made the Pats' offense play on a long field all evening, thus limiting the chances to score. Manning was the MVP, but I am not sure the Giants win without Weatherford's efforts.
Things I hated
» I hated watching the Patriots make unforced errors that basically cost them the game. From the safety to the 12 men on the field, Belichick's team made mistakes it normally doesn't make.
» I hated watching Wes Welker's drop in the fourth quarter, and New England's failure to convert on the ensuing third-down play. When the Pats got the ball with 9:24 to go in the fourth, they needed to not only run the clock, but also score. They used time, but the failure to fully capitalize in crunch time ultimately doomed them. The Giants made the necessary plays, the Pats did not, which is why the G-Men won.
» One non-Super Bowl note: I hated not seeing Charles Haley get into the Hall of Fame this past weekend. He is by far one of the best players ever in the league, and his play was as much responsible for his teams' Super Bowl wins as the play of their Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Don't believe me? Just ask Steve Young, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman.
» And finally, I hate that football season is over. It really makes me sad. But in two weeks, the new season starts with the NFL Scouting Combine. Congratulations to the New York Giants for an incredible year. And thanks for reading every Monday.
Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi