by Ryan Isley
There may not be a person in a more awkward position on Super Bowl Sunday than the quarterback whose team actually plays in Lucas Oil Stadium – the site of Super Bowl XLVI – Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.
First and foremost, when the stadium was granted this Super Bowl, Manning had to be thinking that he would have a chance to be the first quarterback in the history of the NFL to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his own stadium. After three neck surgeries in 19 months, Manning was forced to sit out the 2011 season – the first time he was forced to miss games in his 14-year career.
With Manning and the Colts out of the running for the Super Bowl, the two teams that Manning had to be hoping would not match up – the New York Giants and the New England Patriots – will do just that in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII in which the Giants ended the undefeated season of the Patriots.
Manning is now faced with the decision to root for family (his brother Eli Manning of the Giants) or his arch rival (Tom Brady of the Patriots).
While this seems like it would be an automatic decision to root for family over foe, the simplicity of the decision ends when you realize that a win for Eli would mean he has one more Super Bowl ring than big brother Peyton. Think the rings don’t matter? Go ask Dan Marino about it.
Peyton spent the first 13 seasons in his career putting together one of the most impressive quarterback resumes in NFL history and cementing himself as a first-ballot Hall of Famer when his time comes. He has thrown for 54,828 yards and 399 touchdown passes (both are 3rd-best in NFL history) and has a regular season record of 141-67 as a starting quarterback. The 35-year-old is a four-time NFL MVP, one-time Super Bowl MVP and an 11-time Pro Bowl selection.
The one thing that tarnishes the legacy of Peyton Manning is that he owns a career record of only 9-10 in the playoffs and has won just the one Super Bowl, despite having what most would consider the best team on multiple occasions.
Those are all reasons for Peyton to not root for Eli. While Eli has been in the league for only eight seasons and has only roughly half the passing yards and just under half the touchdown passes of Peyton, he has the chance to pass his big brother with two Super Bowl rings should he pull this one out next Sunday.
Despite starting his career 0-2 in the playoffs, Eli has won seven of his last eight postseason games to bring his career record in the playoffs to 7-3, which includes one Super Bowl win in one of the most improbable upsets in Super Bowl history. Of those seven wins, five of them were road wins – which is an NFL record – and the other was a game played on a neutral field in the Super Bowl. In games away from his home stadium, Eli is 6-1 in the postseason.
A second Super Bowl win by Eli Manning could start to overshadow the pure numbers and success that Peyton has had over the years, making it difficult to think Peyton would truly want to see his brother win another one before he can – if he ever can.
At this point, you would have to be thinking Peyton should just root for the other team to win so that Eli doesn’t win that second ring. The problem with that is rooting against Eli means rooting for Brady, who is right there with Peyton as the best quarterbacks of their era.
While Brady is nearly 15,000 passing yards and 99 touchdown passes behind Manning, he has accumulated those numbers in 49 less starts and trails Manning by just 17 regular season wins as a starting quarterback. And that is just in the regular season.
The real reason Peyton would be hard pressed to root for Brady is the Patriots quarterback already owns three Super Bowl victories and a career postseason record of 14-5. If Peyton wants to truly be remembered as the best quarterback of his era, Brady getting his fourth Super Bowl ring and pushing his record to 15-5 in the postseason while Peyton’s is under .500 would be a somewhat crippling argument to anyone who would take Peyton over Brady.
The argument for Manning would be his number of MVP awards (four to two over Brady), his number of Pro Bowl selections (11 to seven) and so far – his longevity (13 healthy seasons to 10), although every one of those is subject to change if Brady continues on and Manning is unable to regain his pre-neck surgery greatness. Even if Manning can hold the edge in those categories, the trump card will always be that Brady has three Super Bowls to Manning’s one – well, unless Brady makes that four this season and then it will be four to one.
With that in mind, it would seem that the logical choice would be for Peyton to root for Eli in this Super Bowl. After all, you know what they say – blood is thicker than water.