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Why Does Eli Do WFAN Call-Ins?

Eli Manning is not a local radio star. He just gets paid like one.

He earns somewhere around $250,000 per season, according to radio sources, for his weekly appearances that last a few minutes on WFAN. This is a mere pittance compared to the $84 million contract ($65 million guaranteed) he just signed with the Giants.

Manning does not need the radio money. So, why does he bother doing the weekly spot? Why deal with the aggravation these sessions produce? Likewise for all the other players — including Odell Beckham Jr., Muhammad Wilkerson and Prince Amukamara — who currently are paid (far, far, far less than Manning) to run their mouth on the radio. Outside of the cash, what good does it do them?

There’s much more downside, even risk.

Look at the week Manning just had.

His scatter-brained approach late in Sunday night’s Dallas fiasco had the media whipping him like desperate jockeys down the stretch at Aqueduct. Instead of being able to lay low Monday, Manning had to fulfill his radio commitment and explain his bizarre decisions to Mike (Sports Pope) Francesa, who on this occasion decided not to interrupt.

Granted, Manning’s audience with the pontiff was followed by a conference call with reporters. Still, Francesa had it straight from the quarterback’s mouth — first, which means even more now in the world of tweetily-dee. WFAN got its money’s worth out of Manning. It was a win for the FANdroids.

Manning? He may as well have left that interview session with a “Rip Me” sign on his back. By no means was this the first time Manning delivered, to his own detriment, on the radio.

In 2011, while yakking for ESPN-98.7, Michael Kay asked him if he was a “top 10, top five” quarterback.

“Yeah, I think I am,” Manning said at the time. Asked specifically if he was the same level as Tom Brady, Manning paused and then said: “Yeah, I consider myself in that class. And Tom Brady is a great quarterback.”

For ESPN-98.7, this was a major score. For Manning it was a another lesson on being an object of ridicule. He had deposited himself smack in the middle of a controversy and a debate that raged inside the Valley of the Stupid and other media precincts. To this very day, it still resurrects itself, especially when Manning pulls a rock and the first-time-caller, long-time-moron crowd takes over.

When station brass enters a radio relationship with a player it is always one-sided. The suits know the eventual upside (aka ANY type controversy) is worth their investment. The minor risk is the cat is reluctant to go off the script (that’s the direction Wilkerson has taken on FAN with Joe Benigno/Evan Roberts) written by the team’s PR department, leaving the Gasbags to carry him.

And Wilkerson is quite a load.

Benigno: “What about your contract, Muhammad?”

Wilkerson: “You better take that up with my agent.”

Scintillating radio, right?

Come on, Manning must have a valid reason to risk being put on the spot for what, in his world, is chump change. There’s this notion as the face of the Giants, Manning wants to put his “message” out to the unwashed masses after each game. That sounds nice but rings totally hollow. Is this about Manning looking down the road at landing a TV gig when he retires? His understated delivery suggests this is not what he aspires to.

A variety of marketing agents, who negotiate radio deals for current NFL players, say Manning actually extends his media profile by doing radio, which could help lead to more endorsements. Considering the number of commercials Manning appears in, the strategy is working.

Others who don’t possess a quarter of Manning’s marquee value take the radio plunge simply so the public can hear them speak. This helps when it comes to landing personal appearances, which are far, far less lucrative than commercial endorsements.

Yet for these guys, the odds of radio appearances leading to more money, in terms of endorsements or a TV job when they retire, are long. In fact, the appearances can have a far more detrimental affect than the fallout Manning got after the “elite” spot with Kay or Manning’s recent conversation with the Pope.

Like when Jeremy Shockey went into self-destructive mode in 2002 doing a weekly appearance with Francesa and Chris (Mad Dog) Russo. They came on strong with Shockey, who was taking their heat for the grand sum of $1,000 per appearance. Shockey reacted to FranDog’s tough line of questioning by either showing up late or not showing up at all. For this, the Gasbags labeled him “unreliable” and “unprofessional.” Shockey never shook that perception.

On the other side of the equation is Antrel Rolle, who was must-listen radio when he performed on WFAN with Benigno/Roberts. Rolle stirred the pot and took the heat that came his way. For all this, Rolle, now on the Bears, can’t get a radio gig in Chicago.

Maybe he should consult with Eli.

Credit to the NY Daily News who originally published this article