Manning. The name needs no explanation, disclaimer, or back-story. The name Manning resounds thoughts of football greatness, intense competitiveness, and family. The super successful Manning clan personifies the saying “all in the family.” With a father who played in the NFL as a quarterback for 14 years, it came as no shock when both the middle and youngest of the Manning boys picked up a football at a young age wanting to be like daddy. I can imagine that there is hardly a Manning home video or photograph without helmets or footballs flying around. Little did Archie and Olivia Manning know that two of their sons would be battling it out against each other on the gridiron 20 years later… Oh yeah, and they both play quarterback. And they both play the position brilliantly. Peyton, 34, and Eli, 29, have respectively grown into a couple of the most respected and successful quarterbacks of their time. Three of the last four Super Bowl games have featured a Manning. (Um, are you freakin’ kidding me?!) Each was drafted in the first round out of college. (STUD muffins.)Each has in his trophy case a Super Bowl championship ring. (That’s some serious bling…) They have almost identical throwing styles, picture perfect form, and both guys have an intense passion for winning, which can complicate things when the two are facing each other on the field.
The dynamic at play when family members, especially people as close as Eli and Peyton, face each other in a competitive environment can be both undeniably enjoyable and incredibly painful. The 2010 rendition of The Manning Bowl last Sunday night was more towards to the painful side of the continuum for both brothers as Peyton and the Indianapolis Colts routed younger brother Eli and the New York Giants 38-14. In post game press conferences the most prominent question was what the two said to each other when they met a mid field after the game: Eli told his elder brother he played a great game and Peyton told his younger brother that he loved him. The expressionless Olivia and Archie watched the game unfold from a box suite and briefly spoke to both boys after the game. Words of congratulations offered for Peyton, and words of encouragement offered for Eli. What good parents! After the game in the underbelly of Lucas Oil Stadium as buses were loading and equipment bags were being packed, the brothers shared one last quiet moment together before parting ways. Peyton, eager to deflect attention away from his battering of Eli’s Giants, directed the conversation to the Giant’s upcoming opponent, the Tennessee Titans. Peyton has carved up the Titans defense more than once and therefore had helpful insight into how to succeed. Immediately after demolishing his little brother on the field, Peyton had already returned to big brother mode, looking to help his baby bro out any way he could. All in the family.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 333 sets of brothers have played in the NFL (including the AAFC and the AFL), but none have done it more gracefully and passionately than the Mannings, the “Kennedys of football.” When the two meet on the field, it’s all about winning. It’s all about X’s and O’s. For those 60 minutes there is none of that brotherly love stuff. If getting a W means going straight for the jugular of their brother… they will do it without a second thought. This past weekend Peyton told his defensive end Dwight Freeney to get after the opposing quarterback, just like he does every other game. It was no matter that the opposing QB happened to be his little brother. Eli was sacked 4 times, eating turf more times than he cared to remember… Oh, brother. After the game, though it’s immediately back to being a family. “Hey buddy, I’ll call ya on Tuesday,” or “what should we get Mom for Christmas?”
Tiki and Ronde Barber have openly told stories about their difficult first encounter in the NFL. Instead of cracking each other when Ronde blitzed and Tiki attempted to block, they both held up completely aware of the fact that the man in front of them wearing an opposing jersey was their beloved brother. When Venus and Serena Williams first played each other, the play was sloppy. Now, I don’t have any brothers or sisters, but it seems like it would be impossible to go into a game or competition where you’re pitted against a sibling and treat the outing just like any other. But the Mannings seem to have this uncanny ability to completely separate athletics from personal life. What I admire most about these QB studs is their ability to switch that competitive fire and raw mental game on and off with such ease. They don’t hold back because the goal right then and right there is a win. Whoever is in the way, WILL get mowed down… doesn’t matter who you are; it doesn’t matter if you grew up in the same house, and it doesn’t matter if you have the same last name. When your family business is winning Super Bowl rings, the stakes are raised and you’re expected to win at all costs. STOP, it’s Manning time.