INDIANAPOLIS -- The ascension of Eli Manning is a nice story. He's a good player, good young man, comes from a famous family. Typically toils in the shadow of his older brother, Peyton. Eli on the rise? Great story.
Eli eclipsing Peyton?
But that's the direction this story has gone -- that's the way the wind is blowing for the fickle media -- as Eli Manning finds himself on the precipice of his second Super Bowl win, which would give him twice as many Super Bowl rings as Peyton Manning. Which is why people are saying Eli would move into Peyton's territory, maybe even past Peyton, if he leads the New York Giants past New England on Sunday.
It's nonsense. Eli Manning is a very good player, don't get me wrong, and probably a great player -- one of the best of his era. He might even be a Hall of Famer, which would make him one of the best 25 or so quarterbacks of all time, seeing how there are currently 23 modern-era quarterbacks in the Hall.
But he's no Peyton. He will never be Peyton. Anyone who says otherwise is rewriting history with a crayon.
Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, for example. He pulled out his blue-violet Crayola recently when he said, in his role as a television analyst, "By the time it is all said and done, Eli will reign way bigger than Peyton."
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It's not just Irvin. That would be too easy. An entire column in opposition to something silly said by Michael Irvin? I would have carpal tunnel syndrome if I felt the need to rebut every silly thing that guy said. But again, it's not just him. It was this guy here, and it was this guy here.
It's everywhere. And if people aren't coming out and saying Eli would move past his brother with another Super Bowl ring, it's people wondering if the question should at least be asked, if the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI.
The answer is no. Another acceptable answer: Hell no.
Get serious, anyone who would think such a thing. And I'm not trying to insult Eli Manning here. If you can find a single mean word about him in this story, print this out and highlight it and mail it to your congressman. Have me audited or deported or prosecuted for being a big, fat meanie.
Eli Manning is a very good quarterback, possibly a great one, possibly -- definitely, actually, if he gets a second Super Bowl ring -- a Hall of Famer. He would be one of the best 25 or so quarterbacks of all time.
But Peyton Manning is one of the best five or six quarterbacks ever. It's a short list that includes Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Dan Marino. Maybe John Elway. Maybe Johnny Unitas, though his era was so different, so much less demanding on the quarterback, that his name doesn't feel right on the list. But anyway, that's it. Those are the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and it's a list that doesn't include Eli Manning.
Don't bother highlighting that last sentence. It wasn't mean. Just honest.
A Super Bowl ring is the ultimate goal for a player, but not the ultimate measuring stick, because football is such a team sport, requiring so many players to field a team and win a game. Terry Bradshaw has four Super Bowl rings, which makes him the most decorated postseason quarterback in NFL history, but his name isn't on the greatest-ever list for a reason, that reason being: He wasn't as good as Brady, Montana, Favre, Marino, Elway or (Peyton) Manning.
Trent Dilfer has more Super Bowl titles than Dan Marino. Better quarterback? Of course not. It's a team game, and Eli Manning has been in a fabulous franchise with a salty coach and solid running backs and a sensational defense. Eli has been much more than a game-managing quarterback, but to compare him to Peyton would be an insult to Peyton, whose individual numbers are astronomical and whose team -- two Super Bowl appearances, one title, nine consecutive seasons with at least 10 victories -- has won huge.
Peyton has had more years in the league than Eli, but it's not just his aggregate numbers that are superior. Peyton been named MVP four times, Eli none. Peyton has been to the Pro Bowl 11 times in 12 seasons; Eli, twice in eight seasons. Peyton has been first-team All-Pro five times, Eli none. Peyton's career passer rating is 94.9, Eli's 82.1.
The argument is so lopsided, I feel silly even making it. And yet, there are people making the argument on the other side, saying Eli will surpass Peyton if he wins his second Super Bowl on Sunday.
Ben Roethlisberger also has two Pro Bowl appearances, same as Eli. Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings, same as Eli (assuming the Giants win Sunday). Roethlisberger's career passer rating is 92.1, much closer to Peyton's than Eli's.
Nobody says Roethlisberger is better than Peyton Manning.
So why would anyone say it about Eli?