Who you got: Eli or Peyton?!
Like any good argument, both sides offer convincing quantitative and qualitative arguments, and more importantly- or frustratingly, depending upon how you look at, both sides can be right.
But that’s why sports radio, webpages, and bar stools for that matter, all exist and flourish.
That said, my sleeves are rolled up and I’m ready to tackle this ever-intriguing debate. Seniority gets preference, so let’s start with one Peyton Manning: The Great Compiler.
Insane career numbers that are sure to surpass Brett Fav-Ruh if his surgically repaired neck holds up a few more years and the cozy, climate controlled confines of the broadcast booth doesn’t woo him off the frigid Denver playing field before his 5-year, 96-mil contract expires.
There is no debate, his regular season numbers are mind-blowing albeit in an era where thanks to rule changes- or more specifically, rule ‘re-emphasis’ (precipitated greatly due to one particular New England-Indy playoff game), mind-blowing numbers are all the more common (see Brees, Brady, umm, Stafford).
But let’s face it, as evidenced by this year’s frozen flop at home vs. Baltimore, Peyton has been nothing more than mediocre when it counts most. And it’s an albatross he has carried with him from college, where he couldn’t bring a championship home to a loaded Tennessee team he commandeered for three and a half years.
A loaded team that upon his exit, promptly won the National Championship the very next year, led by the none-so-legendary QB Tee Martin. Yes, I repeat, Tee Martin. And yeah, Peyton did shed some of this weighty albatross by winning one Super Bowl ring over a mediocre Bears team led by another none-so-legendary QB, Rex Grossman, perhaps the worst QB to ever start a Super Bowl.
But let’s face it, watching the end of that Ravens-Broncos game, something told me, perhaps the voice of Eli whispering in my ear, that the younger Manning would’ve never ceded and settled for overtime without even taking one shot down field.
This coming from a guy who’s known as Mr. Audible. You telling me Coach Fox would’ve benched him had he not changed the play at the line and taken a shot down field to win the game? Playing it safe is not the mark of a true champion. He flinched. Actually, worse than flinching, he didn’t even try.
Some could even say, he looked unsure, afraid.
And as the great Bodhi in Point Break preached, Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true. Peyton, I’m afraid to say, sealed by your ill-advised and limp cross-body overtime INT, you and your #1 seed went home in the most disappointing fashion the playoffs have seen since Minnesota’s offense for the ages fell flat against Atlanta in the ’98 NFC Championship.
So while Peyton’s numbers make for a great back side to his football card and continue to re-write the record books it’s all starting to ring a little hollow. To date myself with a reference to my football youth, Dan Fouts, who led the Air Coryell San Diego Charger regime, was the sexy QB of the early ‘80s, tossing for a then astounding 4,802 yards in 1981.
But give me the gritty Jim Plunkett and his two rings. Plunkett, a Heisman winner, who like Eli Manning, entered the NFL as the Golden Child QB, only to shit the red carpet laid out before him with 3 mediocre, bordering on terrible years. He seemed destined to be an all-time bust before finding his game several years later after relocating to Oakland.
Eli followed a similar trajectory, looking lost, like the game was too fast for him and his arm was too weak for the notoriously treacherous Meadowlands wind. And worse yet, even more offensive to New York fans, his ‘gosh-golly’ hangdog demeanor spelled doom to cut-throat New York fans. But he stuck with it. He showed resolve.
He didn’t flinch. Yes, Eli, unlike his big brother, still has maddeningly inconsistent games, sometimes for unacceptably long stretches (i.e. this season’s four game swoon), but look what he’s done in the Playoffs. The Ice Bowl in Green Bay, dismantling Big D in their fancy new Mecca of Excess, to name a few…and the Super Bowls.
It’s one statistical category that the Great Compiler loses to his little brother. And more importantly, it’s how he earned double the rings. Last drive of the game, put up or shut up. Score or go home.
Eli pulled 15’s both games, looked the Blackjack dealer in the eye, took a hit and pulled 21’s both times. Blackjack. So while the charismatic Peyton is the clear choice to endorse your latest product as he continues re-writing the record books in erasable ink, QB’s ultimately are measured by rings, and jewelry is forever.
Chris Uhl – Giants Rush Featured Columnist