Now? Well, remember that ESPN promo in which the Manning family is getting a tour of the network’s facilities and Peyton is the tormentor in the older brother-younger brother duel? They may have to reshoot it with the roles reversed.
Eli Manning now has led his team to two Super Bowl championships, both against Brady and the Patriots. Again, two titles are one short of Brady’s total. But that’s the same number as Ben Roethlisberger. And it’s one more than Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning.
All of those men are extraordinary practitioners of the position. But none of them have to withstand the pressure of the New York press on a day-to-day basis. None of them had to live up to an unparalleled family legacy. None of them had to cope with constant upheaval among the ranks of his receivers. None of them really had to hear incessant speculation about the fate of his coaching staff. None of them had to overcome the impression that he was really a 12-year-old kid who had wandered onto the field and somehow fooled the adults.
Instead, Eli Manning absorbed the slings and arrows, and kept on battling.
These New York Giants won’t go down in history as one of the great assemblages in NFL history. It wasn’t too long ago that they were 7-7 and in danger of missing the postseason altogether. For most of the season, they were ordinary, but with an undercurrent of excellence. There were riches there to be tapped, if only someone could determine a way.
Eli Manning stepped forward to accomplish that task. Every championship team in football needs a quarterback who knows how to step up and lead. You can nitpick all you want, but in the end there are just players who have the savvy and the moxie to get it done, and there are others who don’t.
Brady most certainly is one of the great ones. This Super Bowl disappointment won’t tarnish his credentials, no matter what any talk-show nattering nabob opines.
But Eli Manning is one, too. And if that’s too much for you to wrap your head around, then go soak it for a while. Eventually you’ll come to the inevitable conclusion that the rest of the world seems to have finally arrived at after Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Michael Ventre is a regular contributor to NBCSports.com. Follow him on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/MichaelVentre44/
CSN: Tom Brady personally has done enough to be 5-0 in Super Bowls and has never been surrounded by Hall of Fame teammates as the others in the “greatest ever” conversation were.
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