We met him as Peyton Manning’s baby brother, and all they had in common in the beginning was that royal football last name. But suddenly it is 14 years and two Super Bowl championships later, and Eli Manning is three days from his 37th birthday, and when he walks off the MetLife Stadium field into the tunnel that leads to the locker room eight hours before the start of a New Year, it is not etched in stone that we see him again in his beloved blue jersey with the white 10. New general manager Dave Gettleman has left the door open for Manning to be the 2018 starter, and John Mara sure is doing his darndest to keep it open, but who knows what the postseason summit between Manning and the decision-makers will bring? Manning has given no inclination that he would be in any way inclined to serve as a mentor to Davis Webb or to one of the prize college quarterbacks (Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold) that Gettleman should draft with the prized second pick if he loves either or both. “I want to play,” Manning reiterated. “That’s my goal. That’s what I want to do.” I said to him: “You also want to retire a Giant, don’t you?” He smiled and said: “That’d be ideal as well.” He tries to beat the Redskins now, the merciless end to a winter of his discontent, to the worst football season of his life, with a loving fan base wondering if it should sing Cold Lang Syne and thank him for the 14 years not knowing for certain whether there will be a 15th.