John Mara: 'We expect to see the championship-level Eli' in 2014

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Eli Manning has John Mara's full support. (USATSI)
Eli Manning has John Mara's full support. (USATSI)

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Despite throwing a career-high 27 interceptions last season and ranking as one of the NFL's worst quarterbacks, Eli Manning has the full support of Giants co-owner John Mara, who still thinks the 33-year-old, two-time Super Bowl winner can play at a high level.

“I don't think he all of a sudden forgot how to play quarterback,” Mara said, via the New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano. “We expect to see the championship-level Eli play for us this year. He hopefully will have more support than he had last year, and I think you'll see him playing back to his form.”

Of course, critics would argue that Manning has been the beneficiary of some really good defenses and a lot of luck during those two runs to titles. But as we wrote last month, Manning wasn't the only reason the 2013 Giants limped to an 0-6 start (before finishing 7-9) and featured a 31st-ranked offense that was just inept on the ground as it was through the air. The offensive line was a mess, the running game was nonexistent, and the pass catchers struggled to make plays.

Still, an ESPN report suggested that some in the Giants front office wondered if Manning was a player in decline. Mara, apparently, wasn't one of those voices.

“I think you almost feel like this is an opportunity to re-invent yourself,” Mara said. “And to come back and to change what occurred last year and some of the difficulties, and bounce back and kind of have a clean slate to kind of prove yourself again, and get back to playing at a high level. ...

“We still believe he's got a lot of years left in him,” the owner continued. “And we're not talking like Eli Manning only has one or two more years left. We think he's got quite a few more left.”

So get comfortable, Giants fans, because it sounds like Manning's not going anywhere. Although we'll get a sense for just how committed Mara is when (if?) the team extends Manning's contract, which is set to expire after the 2015 season.

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