EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Two famous former Giants - and famous friends of Eli Manning - were in complete agreement on Saturday night about how the franchise they love had "wasted" the prime years of Manning's career.
Shaun O'Hara and Justin Tuck were absolutely right.
Those years were wasted with poor personnel decisions, too many draft choices that never made an impact, and an unbelievable combination of neglect and wrong moves along an offensive line that too often crumbled in front of the franchise quarterback.
But that was then. It's going to be hard for anyone - including Manning and his friends - to use that as an excuse now.
That's why this is shaping up as an enormous year for the 37-year-old Manning - particularly in terms of a legacy that's been tarnished a bit by reaching the playoffs only once and having just two winning seasons in the past six years.
Since the arrival of new GM Dave Gettleman, the Giants have systematically gone about fixing their issues. They spent $77 million and a second-round pick to fix the offensive line, used the second overall pick to get much-needed help for the running game, and hired a qualified coach - an "adult," as Gettleman said, who can add some much-needed professionalism. They even quickly rebuilt their defense, too.
Add in the presumably healthy (and happy) return of Odell Beckham Jr., one of the best playmakers in the game, and it's all set up for a Manning revival. Everyone will see whether he was a victim of his circumstance, or if he really was in decline as his detractors often suggested in the last few years.
Pat Shurmur and Gettleman clearly weren't among those detractors. They've been clear that they feel Manning is still an elite quarterback and can be for years to come. They've pointed to multiple examples last season when he making great throws and doing great things, whether those ended up successful or not.
And so far, new Giants offensive coordinator Mike Shula has seen enough to become a believer, too. Maybe Manning isn't in his physical prime anymore, but there's more to playing quarterback than just that.
"As we know, the guys that are at his age and are playing are in it for a reason," Shula said. "They understand where they're at in their careers, they understand their bodies, they understand what they have to get done. Drew Brees, (Ben) Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, those guys -- Tom Brady is obviously almost in a different class all by himself even being a few years older. And Eli is a perfect example that they get that and they know that and their minds are really fast. If there is anything that he maybe lacks because he is a little bit older, he makes up because of his mind being so fast."
Obviously that wasn't evident for most of last season, but let's not pretend 2017 was all Manning's fault. He was under constant pressure from his terrible offensive line, he had no running game for support, he had no Beckham, and was, at times, without his other top two receivers.
And then there was the lack of faith from his coach, Ben McAdoo, that led to him being briefly benched.
Yet through it all, Manning still completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 3,468 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in 15 games. That's not great. Even if he had played 16 games, his numbers would've been below his standards. But they weren't terrible either.
Regardless, he knows he has to be better. The new Giants regime has been, and likely will be, proactive about surrounding Manning with better talent than he's had in the recent past. They firmly believe they have the guy to lead them to another Super Bowl, and they're determined to give him the pieces to do just that.
Even Manning admitted he could feel their faith the moment they decided to draft Saquon Barkley instead of his eventual successor with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
"Taking a running back, I think, showed that they think I can still perform at a high level, lead this team," Manning said, "and be a successful young quarterback in this league."
Now that's exactly what he has to be, and what he has to play like - "a successful young quarterback." He has to turn back the clock when he was throwing for nearly 4,500 yards per year and tossing 30-plus touchdowns - which, by the way, was only three seasons ago.
Nothing less will be acceptable now that better pieces are in place. Even a failure to make the playoffs might be unacceptable. The supporting cast is there, which means this season will likely turn out to be a referendum on Manning - or at least the second half of his career.
The excuses are gone. Now we'll find out if the last few years are really on him - because this year certainly is.