For New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, perhaps the most thrilling aspect of his team’s February 5, 2012, victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI is the fact that he is now, undeniably, no longer the Fredo Corleone of the Manning family.
“I can handle things,” said Manning in a postgame press conference, his knuckles white as he gripped the Vince Lombardi Trophy. “I’m smart! Not like everybody says . . . like, dumb. . . . I’m smart and I want respect!”
Manning—now not only a two-time Super Bowl winner but also a two-time Super Bowl MVP, and one of only eleven quarterbacks to win the game multiple times—has spent the bulk of his seven-year career in the dual shadows of his more famous (and, in most ways, undeniably more accomplished) brother—the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning—and their father, Don Vito “Archibald” Manning, a respected quarterback in his own right and two-time Pro Bowler.
After eldest brother Cooper’s injuries put an end to his career, Peyton took over and led the family to heights beyond anything his father could have imagined—pain-free games, winning records, playoff berths, and a legitimate front as one of the nation’s largest importers of olive oil.
|Horrific injuries rendered Cooper only barely more mobile than his younger brothers.|
With his brother occupying a place of respect in the NFL, Eli Manning was taken with the first overall pick in the 2004 draft, sparking immediate discussion about whether his high selection was based on his abilities or on the shady influence of his powerful family.
Giants starter Kurt Warner “voluntarily” voided of his contract after the end of the 2004 season and signed with the Arizona Cardinals, leaving Eli to be declared the team’s starting quarterback. This raised further suspicions, especially given Warner’s statement that it was “probably better to play for Arizona than sleep with the fishes . . . I guess.”
The NFL’s formal investigation into the Warner Incident came to a stumbling halt, however, after anti-Manning crusader Senator Pat Geary announced in the middle of the hearing that
”I can state, from my own knowledge and experience, that Mannings are among the most loyal—most law-abiding—patriotic, hard working American citizens in this land. And it would be a shame, mister chairman, if we allowed a few rotten apples to bring a bad name to the whole barrel,”before exiting suddenly and leaving the committee without one of its most important members.
Since then, Eli Manning’s seven-year career has revealed sporadic signs of greatness amid long stretches of mediocrity, with his performance in the 2008 playoffs being almost dismal enough to qualify him to play for the rival New York Jets. His best single-season quarterback rating is less than Peyton’s career average rating, he throws significantly fewer touchdowns per game and more interceptions per game, has scored far fewer rushing touchdowns than his brother despite having superior mobility,1 and, of course, failed to protect his father from a vicious (albeit eventually unsuccessful) assassination attempt engineered by Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo.
That said, though, Eli has accomplished enough in his career to no longer deserve to be compared to the real Fredo Corleone:2
- Eli effectively stole the thunder from his brother’s longtime rivalry with the other premier quarterback of this generation (Tom Brady’s Chin of the New England Patriots), upstaging Peyton by beating Brady twice in the only game that really matters. Peyton has failed to even meet Brady in a Super Bowl.3
- In 2011 Eli compiled more passing yards than Peyton Manning has ever managed in a single season, and it’s probably only a coincidence that this happened in a season in which harsh language counted as pass interference. It’s quite likely, though, that Peyton would have put up similar numbers had he not had to flee the country and live incognito after murdering Virgil Sollozzo and corrupt police captain Mark McCluskey.
|“Every time I put a ball in the air I said a Hail Mary,|
and every time I said a Hail Mary, they caught the ball.”
|Peyton, master of disguise, went undetected in Sicily.|Eli, ever the ladies’ man, crossed Moe Greene in Las Vegas by “banging cocktail waitresses two at a time,” preventing players from getting drinks at their tables. We’d like to see Peyton try that.4
- And of course Eli has won two Super Bowls, to Peyton’s one. As if winning one Super Bowl were even that hard. Heck, all sorts of forgettable quarterbacks have won one Super Bowl: Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer, Mark Rypien,
Dan Marino,Jim McMahon—so really, for Peyton to hang his professional reputation on one measly Super Bowl ring5 is awfully silly.
So clearly, Eli Manning deserves every bit of praise he receives, as long as, you know, it’s not too much. He has proven beyond doubt that he’s one of the best quarterbacks in his immediate family, and his brother certainly won’t mind being momentarily upstaged in his home stadium.
|“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.”|
1. In much the same way that a drifting continent is more mobile than, say, a dead turtle.
2. Who is, of course, not technically real.
3. Purists and nitpickers might attempt to bring up that Peyton Manning has not and never could face Tom Brady’s Chin in the Super Bowl, because they play in the same conference, but we’d like to respectfully point out that we never asked for their stupid snotty opinions.
4. We don’t really mean this. In fact, there’s nothing on Earth we’d rather not see.We mean it—stop calling us, Peyton.
5. That is, one Super Bowl ring plus his mastery of every measurable criterion of quarterbacking excellence, with the one minor exception being the ability to outrun a toddler.