Wiedmer: Could Eli become known as the best Manning QB?

Wiedmer: Could Eli become known as the best Manning QB?

January 16th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

When it comes to Peyton Manning's place in history among the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks, the argument has often centered on the former University of Tennessee star's accomplishments versus those of New England quarterback Tom Brady.

But what if Peyton isn't even the best quarterback in his own family. And we're not talking about his father Archie, though Pops might have been a Hall of Famer in his own right if he hadn't spent the bulk of his career with the franchise once known as the New Orleans Ain'ts.

What if Eli Manning ultimately passes his older brother in one of the stats that matters most to football historians -- Super Bowls won?

As of this morning, the Brothers Manning not only share being the No. 1 overall picks in their respective draft classes (1998 and 2004), but are also tied with one Lombardi Trophy each.

That they won their solo Super Bowls in back-to-back years (the 2006 and 2007 seasons) only adds to the notion that they are inarguably the First Family of Quarterbacks.

But if Eli keeps leading the New York football Giants as he has through the first two weeks of the playoffs -- Little Brother threw for three touchdowns, 330 yards and just one interception in Sunday's 37-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers after throwing for three TDs and no INTs a week earlier against Atlanta -- he just might muddy the argument about which Manning has been better when it counts most.

Especially if these Giants wind up following their 2007 counterparts to Super Bowl glory.

This isn't to say Eli's better. Far from it. Peyton's won a record four MVP awards during his 14-year career with the Indianapolis Colts, the only player in league history so honored. He's thrown for 4,000 or more yards 11 times, including a league record six in a row. He's also been named to the Pro Bowl 11 times.

By contrast, Eli's been named to two Pro Bowls and has thrown for 4,000 yards or more just three times, though they've all come in the last three seasons and Eli nearly topped 5,000 this regular season, finishing with 4,933.

But an argument could also be made that Eli has traveled the tougher road, spending the entirety of his eight-year career in media-savage New York City, where every interception, incompletion and defeat is treated as a tasty tabloid treat.

By contrast, Peyton has arguably been the most beloved figure in the Hoosier State for his entire career, especially since former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight left the state in the fall of 2000.

Moreover, there is evidence that Eli is still improving, as witness his three straight 4,000-plus yard passing seasons and his stirring playoff performances.

Beyond that -- not to take anything away from Peyton -- but Eli's playoff runs have been more difficult. The NFC East is arguably tougher than the AFC South, where the Colts reside. Then there are the Super Bowls themselves. The Colts beat an overachieving Chicago Bears squad. The Giants kept the New England Patriots from being the first team in NFL history from going 19-0.

Both Peyton and Eli earned Super Bowl MVP, but Eli's was clearly the more surprising.

It would be wrong to argue that Super Bowls are the ultimate measure of a quarterback. Super Bowls are won by teams and lost by teams. Their fates determined as much by the quality of the opponent, their own coaches and the teammates that surround them.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana may deserve every accolade thrown his way for winning four Super Bowls -- and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw probably doesn't get enough credit for his four Super Bowl rings -- but both those guys were surrounded by outstanding supporting casts.

And if you're attempting to rate the Mannings, that's one fact in Peyton's favor. The Colts went 2-14 this season with Peyton sidelined; they were the worst team in the NFL.

As the Giants are showing again, it's an organization blessed with far more parts than Eli, especially on defense.

Still, if the Giants knock off the 49ers this Sunday to reach a second Super Bowl in five years -- and if they do what Peyton's Colts couldn't do during their second trip, which was win -- Eli will have two rings and Peyton one.

Beyond that, given Peyton's injured neck, Peyton would appear to have far less chance to add to his one world title than Eli, who's both five years younger and obviously healthier.

A final stunner? If Eli's Giants win it all this year, they'll do it in Peyton's house, since the Super Bowl will be played in Indy's Lucas Oil Stadium.

So even though Peyton was certainly cheer for his brother, if the Giants win it all, Peyton just might be watching Eli challenge Peyton's place in history. Talk about a test of brotherly love.