It will be bittersweet for Eli Manning when his big brother Peyton takes the field on Sunday for the Super Bowl. The field is, after all, MetLife Stadium, where Eli’s New York Giants spent a long season trying – and failing – to get their offense going. But brotherhood is brotherhood and the youngest member of the Manning clan is feeling good. He’s fresh off a family dinner (“If he wanted to talk football, I’d let him . . . but it didn’t come up”) and looking forward to the game.
“It’s always been more of a support deal,” says Eli, who has spent Super Bowl week serving as a spokesman for Purina Pro Plan. “We really are not competitive.” To underscore his point, Eli rattles off his brother’s achievements – 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns this year alone – and adds that he doesn’t think that the cold or the Richard Sherman-led Legion of Boom, Seattle’s outstanding defense, can stop the Bronco’s relentless throwing game. We asked Eli about brotherly rivalry and how he and his brother shape, and continue to shape, each other’s approach to life in the NFL.
Who do you think is going to win?
Seattle’s defense has been good, but the Broncos probably have the best offense in the NFL this year. They have a lot of weapons and a lot of players. They’ll be prepared and it’s just going to be a matter of who can hit a big pass play or if Seattle can cause turnovers – those will be the differences in the game.
You’ve won two championships to Peyton’s one. Has that come up as you guys talk about the big game?
Nah, he’s got five MVPs, and getting to a Super Bowl is about the team. It’s not about the quarterback. We’ve played in three games against each other and he’s 3-0. I’ve still got to catch him. Peyton has already left his legacy on the NFL. And I know he’s not one to talk about it. Legacies are talked about when you‘re done playing football, and obviously he’s still playing at a very high level. For young quarterbacks coming in, he’s kind of set the standard.
You sound like you try to avoid competing with Peyton. Is that fair?
Basketball was kind of the only game where we used to play a little one-on-one. He’s five years older than me, so growing up, there wasn’t really that much of a competition. Once I got to 16, I was playing high school basketball and he was in college; we would have some pretty good one-on-one basketball games. We had a basketball hoop set up between the house and another little back house. It was almost like arena basketball. You’d catch some elbows, get pushed into the walls a little bit. So we had some pretty brutal matches. When [Peyton] was in college, he would come back to my high school football practice and film my practice and watch it and look at footwork and teach me the things he was learning in college.
Do you guys still coach each other like that?
We do. We played the Chargers, we played Kansas City. He played Dallas, Philadelphia, and Washington. We trade notes with each other on the stuff we saw on film, some ideas, some things we saw that you got out of the game. You can have a little edge to start your week.
Does having the Super Bowl in MetLife Stadium make this a different sort of experience? Your brother is, quite literally, on your turf.
If I’m not going to be playing in [the Super Bowl], it’s fun to have Peyton here. My parents will be in town, my oldest brother, and a lot of friends and family. We’ll make it enjoyable, but obviously it would be more fun if Peyton could pull out a win on Sunday. When I came to New York and I was drafted, I just remember him saying, ‘Hey, I’m here for you in any way you want. I can help you with watching film and what you want to do in the off-season. . . . The only thing I can’t help you out with is that New York media. You’re kind of on your own right there. You’ve got to figure them out for yourself.’