Who’s the Man(ning) Now? Eli!

He’ll always be Baby Brother, of course. That’s the curse of birth order Eli Manning will never escape.

Big Brother Peyton (pictured, right) was the first Manning to reach the Super Bowl, the first to win the Super Bowl and the first to enter the Manning name into NFL record books.

For a while Baby Brother (center) was, well, just a Manning – the second son of former Saint Archie Manning to reach the NFL. The words ” ‘Ole Miss” and “BCS” were never uttered in the same sentence during his years as a Rebel. He entered the NFL as a haughty pout, refusing to play for San Diego and forcing a trade with the Giants that for years seemed as lopsided as the 1626 sale of Manhattan for about a grand.

Now, Eli is not only his own Manning after winning his own Super Bowl ring last season. Baby Brother is also – buckle up for this one – the Best Manning

One quarter into the season, Eli and the Giants are undefeated (not so special given their weak early-season schedule) and sitting atop the NFC East, the NFL’s toughest division. Peyton’s Colts, meanwhile, are a wobbly 2-2 and lagging behind the Who-Are-These-Guys Titans, who are 5-0.

On Sunday, Eli dissected the Seattle secondary as if the “No-See” ‘Hawks were practice cones. He completed 19 of 24 passes and threw for 267 yards and 2 TDs in about three quarters of work in the Giants’ 44-6 rout. Big Brother was impressive, too, against the Texans, but needed a late-game comeback from a 17-point hole (buoyed by fumbles from Houston’s stand-in QB, Sage Rosenfels) to eke out a 31-27 win. Big Brother finished with 247 yards, completing 25 of 34 passes with 2 TDs and 1 INT. Baby brother didn’t throw a single pick.

For his body of work, Peyton may still be the Best Manning on paper. And, yes, if I had to choose one of them for a pickup game as they both stood around needling each other, I’d be hard-pressed not to tab Big Bro’.

But it would be the wrong pick because right now, Baby Brother is the best Manning.

The evidence:

In QB rating, Baby Brother is ranked sixth in the league (99.7); Big Brother is 20th (79.2)

In completion percentage, Baby Brother is 13th (63.6); Big Brother 16th (62.3)

In yardage, Baby Brother is 12th (1,032); Big Brother is 13th (1,031) Hey, a yard is a yard … ask the Titans.

It’s been an odd season for Big Brother. He still seems a bit uncertain on his surgically repaired knee. Hey, maybe the season-ending loss to his chief rival, Tom Brady, has somehow left him with a bit of a void.

But in the No-Fault League, only numbers matter, and right now Baby Brother has the numbers.

For most quarterbacks, including Peyton, winning a Super Bowl validates their prior success.  For a few, like Brady, it marks the beginning of a reign of dominance.

For Eli, it was a repudiation of his erratic early years when he was the stereotypical Baby Brother who seemed doomed to fall short of the legacy of the family name.

No longer is he the slope-shouldered anti-leader who seemed to shrink from the duties of leadership.

No longer does he throw his arms up like a petulant child when a pass (or a teammate) goes array.

No longer does he quake in the presence of teammates with more bravado (See: Shockey, J.) or tenure (See: Barber, T.)

No, Baby Brother is now the Man-ning.

Manning Family Photo

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