Eli Manning or Peyton Manning?
Even after the youngest Manning brother tied his older brother in Super Bowl victories and Super Bowl MVP trophies four years ago, this question seemed ill-informed at best and antagonist at worst.
Of course, Peyton was the better Manning.
In an August 2008 article in Sports Illustrated, Lee Jenkins took a look back at the miraculous Super Bowl XLII win authored by Eli and wrote about the relationship between the Manning boys.
"He may never outperform Peyton, but on the right night Eli can at least keep up with him."
With Eli set to take the field for Super Bowl XLVI and Peyton perhaps never taking the field again, it may be time to reevaluate our longstanding understanding of the Manning dynamic. Is Eli doing more than just keeping up?
So, let's ask again: Eli or Peyton?
Despite missing this season due to injury, Peyton still has four MVP Awards on his resume -- an NFL record. Peyton also has a won-loss record of 141-67 in games he starts. Eli, meanwhile, sports a record of 69-50. Having entered the NFL several years ahead of his little brother, Peyton has nearly double the career passing yards and more than twice has many touchdown passes (399 to 185).
But after February 5, Eli could have more Lombardi Trophies. Should that matter more than Peyton's regular-season completion percentages or third-down conversion rates? While Peyton has been the superior (and more consistent) regular-season player, Eli has shown a penchant for coming up big when his back is against the wall. As it stands now, the New York Giants are 8-3 in the playoffs with Eli under center. The Indianapolis Colts have a losing record of 9-10 with Peyton in the postseason. Eli has five playoffs wins on the road. No other quarterback has ever done that.
With his brother off the field this season, Eli threw 15 fourth-quarter touchdowns -- something else no other quarterback has ever done. In 2011, he also threw for more yards in a season than Peyton ever has with 4,933 (sixth-most in NFL history). That's 233 more yards than Peyton threw in his best season.
Before this season, Eli ruffled some feathers by saying that he thinks he's in the same QB class as Tom Brady, but then he went out and backed up his claim. Soon enough he'll have a chance to beat Brady in the Super Bowl.. again. Previously, the QB debate was between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, with others like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers forcing themselves into the conversation. WIth a Super Bowl win in his brother's stadium, doesn't Eli have a case, even if it's based more on results than statistics?
Besides, at just 31 years old, Eli still has sufficient time to catch Peyton in some of those counting stats. On the other hand, Peyton's career with the Colts -- and perhaps his NFL career -- is rumored to be nearing its end. The latest report comes from NBC's Peter King, who wrote that Peyton is struggling to get healthy. Late last week, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported that a decision to move on from Peyton was made weeks ago within the Colts organization. Both of these reports come shortly after actor Rob Lowe set the Internet ablaze with a tweet about Peyton's impending retirement. Lowe's tweets cited inside information, which had many wondering if Colts owner Jim Irsay, known to friends with the actor, was the source. The past week has featured a battle of sound bytes between Peyton and Irsay.
Even those who think Eli needs to improve tremendously in his decision making and consistency before reaching Peyton's class would likely have to concede that the younger brother is best choice going forward. And, whether or not the Giants pull off another upset over the Patriots in Super Bowl 46, the overall argument between Eli and Peyton has certainly gotten a lot more interesting since Peyton was named Super Bowl MVP in 2007.