The Eli interview + is he already Hall worthy?

Eli

My photos of Eli Manning (above & below) at training camp on July 30.

——

“All he does is play well and win”
— Giants head coach Tom Coughlin

ALBANY, N.Y. — On the off-season buzz-meter for NFL quarterbacks, Eli Manning wasn’t No. 1 in his own city — or even in his own family.

This despite being named MVP of the Super Bowl. Again.

In February, Manning led his New York Giants to their second NFL championship in his eight-year tenure — a victory made possible by his late completion down the sideline to Mario Manningham, which will be remembered as one of the most clutch, precisely thrown deep balls in NFL history.

Yet Manning became an afterthought — immediately.

Boggles the mind.

Instead, New York Jets quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez have been hogging almost all the football headlines in the Big Apple since March.

And in February and March, there was daily drama surrounding Eli’s more famous older brother, Peyton — first as to whether he’d remain a Colt, then as to where he’d sign once the Colts dumped him. Peyton chose the Broncos, and ever since then the Twittersphere hyperventilates each time he ties his shoes.

Nobody cares if Eli Manning even wears shoes.

And ya know what? He’s just fine with that.

Really.

Eli“I’m not looking for attention,” Manning told QMI Agency in a training-camp interview. “I think a lot of times now when you’re in the media, usually something bad’s going on.

“So I’m trying to win games, and worry about the Giants, and do my job well.”

That he does. Especially as the stakes rise.

His playoff record is 8-3, a winning percentage of .727 — which blows away that of most quarterbacks in NFL history, including his more celebrated older brother (who is 9-10, .474).

Perhaps most impressively, Eli Manning’s Giants were underdogs in virtually every playoff game they won en route to their two Super Bowl titles, and all but one was played on the road. The combined regular-season record of the playoff teams the Giants beat in 2007 and 2011 was an incredible 102-26 (.797).

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin just shakes his head about the apparent discord between Manning’s on-field success and his off-field fame.

“All he does is play well and win. That’s all,” Coughlin told me during training camp.

And is it true that it really does not faze Manning that the spotlight usually avoids him?

ELI“Why should it faze him? Why should it?” Coughlin repeated, with emphasis. “It is the way it is. Sometimes I look and, ya know, he’s so honest and so forthright. He’s been able to accomplish his goals, and our goals. And people kind of just go, ‘Enh. He’s there’ — and move on.”

There was one big off-season exception. That was on May 5, when Manning agreed to host Saturday Night Live.

Surprised critics raved.

“The Giants quarterback scored big with a hilarious commercial spoof for a fictional ‘Little Brothers’ charity, striking a blow for tortured brothers everywhere,” wrote Ralph Vacchiano of New York Newsday.

Manning had previously turned down an invitation to host SNL, but he said he felt this year was the right time.

“The Saturday Night Live deal was something that was just personal, something kind of just for me,” Manning told me. “I grew up watching it and thought it’d be a great experience.

“Obviously, Peyton hosted it years before and I got to watch him. So that was a personal deal and totally just, hey, something I want to try to do and attack and try to do well — and have fun with it.”

He said he was even doing more commercials, which we’re now starting to see.

“You try to get with good companies and endorse things that you use, and so I try to have fun with that experience as well.”

Just like big brother does.

The Eli/Peyton relationship is not unlike that of most brothers separated by more than a couple years. Peyton, now 36, picked on Eli, now 31, all the time when they were kids.

(There’s a third Manning brother, Cooper, who is two years older than Peyton. He was an all-state wideout in high school, but an injury derailed his football ambitions as he, too, tried to follow in the footsteps of daddy — quarterback Archie Manning, who played in the NFL from 1971-84, mostly with the Saints.)

As it happens, I have a brother who’s five years my junior. Truth be told, I was merciless to him at times. (Sorry, Jason.) But there was a day neither of us will ever forget. I was 22, he was 17. For the first time as we wrestled in our parents’ basement, he turned the tables and whooped my ass.

An exultant Jason went nuts.

I asked Eli if there was one such singular moment between he and Peyton as he approached manhood.

“Ya know, Peyton and I … ” he said, pausing. “Of course, I got picked on when I was little, like any little brother should get picked on …

“Sure, when you get to the point where you can play one-on-one basketball, and you’re kind of at that same level — you hit that 16, 17 years old and he’s 21, you’re kind of at the same level. So that’s always a fun experience when you can finally beat your big brother in something.

“But besides that, he’s been a great big brother, and helping me out a lot. When I was in high school, he’d come back from college, and things he was learning in college football at (the University of) Tennessee, he was coming back and teaching me. So he’s always looked after me, and supported me, and tried to make sure I was having an advantage over other people at my level.”

Should the day come in the next few years when Eli’s Giants face Peyton’s Broncos in the Super Bowl, well, Eli has sympathy for Mom and Dad.

“I think it would be a nightmare for them, just because it’s hard to be happy for someone in their success if the other one is at the losing end of it. For me, it’s my job to try to get the Giants back to a Super Bowl. And Peyton, he’s trying to do the same thing for the Broncos. And if it happens to work out that way, then so be it.”

NFL Films always produces a one-hour documentary on Super Bowl champions. The one on the ’07 Giants featured defensive lineman Michael Strahan depicting Eli as the most laid-back dude you’d ever meet.

I asked Manning if people misinterpret such a demeanour as a lack of competitive intensity.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “I think it’s just that I don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s not that I’m laid-back. I’m probably just a little bit quiet by nature.

“I think if something needs to be said, I’m gonna say it, I’m gonna fix things, I’m gonna coach guys up. I’m very competitive. I’m very hard on myself when I make mistakes and those types of things. But from a competitive nature, that’s not my way — I’m not a screamer and yeller. Someone messes up, I’m gonna go and kind of talk to you and tell you what you were doing, and how we need to fix things.”

And not kick a garbage can across the room?

“Yeah, exactly. I’m not going to make a big scene. That’s just kind of my nature.”

Is Eli worthy of Hall of Fame already?

Has Eli Manning already done enough to earn a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

He’s won two Super Bowls, and been named MVP in both of them.

EliHe’s won more road playoff games (five) than any quarterback in NFL history. And he’s 8-3 in the playoffs.

Conversely, after eight seasons Manning’s regular-season completion percentage is unimpressive (58%), as is his TD-to-interception ratio (185-129). Ditto his QB rating of 82.1.

Which begs the question: is a place in Canton more about career statistics, or winning accomplishments?

“I think he deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” says Gil Brandt, vice-president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1989, and a senior analyst for NFL.com. “He took two teams to Super Bowl wins, and he did it both times by winning on the road. His play (in the NFC final last season) at San Francisco was magnificent.

“He’s a much better athlete than you think he is. He’s 6-foot-5, and doesn’t look like Russell Wilson running around out there. But he’s an athlete. I think Eli is equal to his brother in ability, and that’s a big statement.”

And understand where he plays, Brandt says.

“When you play eight games a year in an outdoor stadium, especially at that old Meadowlands, which was a disaster, and then you play two more games a year at Philadelphia and Washington outdoors — that gives you 10 of your 16 games, minimum, that are outdoors (in the Northeast). And if you play them late in the year, it’s cold and windy.”

Another consideration, Brandt says, is that Eli plays quarterback in the Big Apple.

“It’s not an easy job. There’s so much pressure, and so much demand for your time. And this guy just lets it all roll off his back.”

One thought on “The Eli interview + is he already Hall worthy?

  1. mark styles

    I’ve always liked Eli Manning and agree with the assessment that he is Hall of Fame material. Peyton has won alot more regular season games, but only one championship. I will take championships over regular season records any day of the week, and twice on Sunday!! He ‘s level headed, steady, and a hell of a leader. he has Hall of Fame credentials and will be a first ballot lock when the time comes. I would take him over any player in the league, and that includes Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady.

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