Let's play word association.
I say the name "Manning." First thought? Probably Peyton, right? Be honest.
Now what's that other Manning's name? Not Archie...
So, he painted a stupid smile on his face as he held the jersey, but not before the cameras revealed his chagrin. He said he'd rather finish his law degree than play for San Diego.
By the time the outrage died down over Eli's antics (except in San Diego, where I'm sure he'll always be despised), the season was set to begin. 2004 was a learning year for him, but he did show potential in the time that he played.
When he got the starting job from Kurt Warner the next year, he delivered fairly well. In his first full season as a starter, Eli led the Giants to the playoffs, where they lost their wildcard game to the Panthers.
The 2006 season, however, was not viewed as a success for Eli.
Although it began 6-2, the Giants' record collapsed in the second half of the season—they finished with an 8-8 record. Losing again in the wildcard round of the playoffs, critics of Peyton's little brother were plentiful.
Meanwhile, Peyton was lighting up the league. Pro-bowls, most valuable player awards, playoffs, and even a Super Bowl victory (with Super Bowl MVP honors as well.) Every time you turned on the television, he was there. It's kind of hard to forget him—but that other one; I still can't quite remember his name...
This season, Peyton's little brother decided to throw himself a coming-out party. He latched onto a couple of Peyton's commercials as he tried to demonstrate some charisma. But more importantly, he decided to step up and become a leader on the field.
After being criticized by a member of the Giants ownership, Eli stepped up and drove the Giants into the playoffs—where he finally won the wildcard, and then the divisional.
Last Sunday, in the third-coldest playoff game ever, Eli really showed his stuff.
He calmly managed the game, and he made no mistakes. He was not spectacular—he didn't have to be. As a matter of fact, throughout the Giants' three playoff games, he hasn't been amazing. But he has been pretty darn good.
Mistake-free football wins championships. Just ask his big brother...what's his name?
On Super Bowl Sunday, Eli has the chance to make history. He can be the quarterback who rises up and defeats the mighty Patriots. His name would be emblazoned on trivia cards for all eternity—Eli Manning, Defeater of the 2007-08 New England Patriots.
Sunday dinner bragging rights at the Manning home would be his as well, because his brother—that other Manning—couldn't even beat those Pats.
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