Sorry, Eli Isn’t the Better Manning — Not Yet

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"I won't let Barack Obama hurt you, Timmy." Photo: Getty Images

Things are good in Giants land these days. They’re the defending champs, undefeated so far in 2008, and even the mild Plaxico Burress controversy hasn’t had much negative effect, other than giving Gary Myers the chance to offer up a few unsolicited parenting tips. So, forced to write an endless stream of positive stories about a local team for once, the press has taken the opportunity to officially deify Eli Manning. (Or, if you will, "Jeter" him.) And how better to do that than to claim he’s better than his brother, future Hall of Famer Peyton?

ESPN.com’s Gregg Easterbrook kicked things off yesterday, calling Eli the better QB not just right now, but perhaps the one who'll be considered better when all is said and done. Then today, the Daily News, which presumably didn’t want to miss the opportunity to use the BEST MANN headline they’ve had sitting around all these years, declared pretty much the same thing in an article by Ralph Vacchiano. (It’s, um, worth pointing out that Vacchiano has just published a book about … Eli Manning.) Here’s the thing — the hype’s just not really true.

Look, we don't mean to knock Eli; we think quite highly of him, in fact. It's just that his brother is already one of the all-time greats. Yes, we get it: They have similar stats (both this year and through their first 59 starts), each has one title, but Eli’s team has a better record, plus he’s five years younger. Easterbrook and Vacchiano leave out a few key details, though. Peyton had the Patriots dynasty in his conference during his prime; if not for them, Peyton might have two or three titles, but Eli would still just have one. Plus, the Colts’ offense has always revolved around Peyton throwing, over and over again with historic success, to Marvin Harrison. Eli, meanwhile, is a part of a much more balanced offense — and for that matter, a more balanced team, with a terrific defense.

Plus, it’s entirely possible we’re in the midst of the hottest streak Eli will ever put together — which, by the way, there would be nothing wrong with. Peyton, meanwhile, isn't really flying high right now, with the Colts at just 2–2. So sure, today Eli is better — or at least seems better. But who knows about a week from now — let alone ten years from now. (Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that the Giants looked foolish for zeroing in on Eli when they could have kept Phillip Rivers or drafted Ben Roethlisberger.) Could Eli eventually be the better Peyton? Sure, maybe. But maybe doesn’t sell papers.