They’re two parts of perhaps the most famous family in football, and now Peyton and Eli Manning are introducing themselves to a whole new generation of NFL audiences.
Peyton, the former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos star, and younger brother Eli, who quarterbacked the New York Giants to two Super Bowl titles, are hosting their own “Manningcast” on ESPN2 as part of the ESPN networks’ Monday Night Football presentations this season.
The pair have earned rave reviews for their film-study approach to the broadcast and the fun they had with some of their guests.
PlayMichigan watched along as the Detroit Lions fell 35-17 to the Green Bay Packers this past Monday at Lambeau Field. Here were some of the highlights.
Peyton and Eli take brotherly jabs
Peyton Manning certainly drives this two-man commentary bus, and his personality lends him to being on the receiving end of some jokes.
For two games now, Eli has cracked wise about Peyton’s protuberant forehead. This week, he took a stab at what was going on inside Peyton’s brain.
On the Lions’ first drive, Detroit faced a first-and-goal at the 7-yard line. Peyton Manning saw a pass. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn called a 1-yard run.
“Nice call, Romo,” Eli jabbed, referencing CBS top analyst Tony Romo, who has become known for his ability to predict plays on offense before the ball is snapped.
Peyton snorted out a high-pitched laugh.
The New England Patriots … they’re always watching
When the Packers were employing a run-heavy approach to avoid a similar fate that befell their 38-3 blowout loss to New Orleans in last week’s season-opener, Peyton and Eli joked that someone was listening in on their pre-game musings.
“I think that conversation was bugged, kind of like the (New England) Patriots used to do back in the day,” Peyton quipped. He was referencing teams coached by Bill Belichick that were accused of spying on opposing teams’ practices and deflating game balls over the past two decades, among other offenses.
Peyton Manning said his team operated under the assumption that portions of the visiting locker rooms were equipped with audio listening devices.
So they said the only way around having “soundproof” meetings was to cram a bunch of players in the showers.
Always working angles with NFL officials
Quarterbacks sometimes can use their star power to attempt to influence officials during games. But an intentional grounding call on Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff reminded Peyton Manning of his unsuccessful attempts at persuasion.
“If there was nobody in the area, I’d go, ‘Hey, ref, that receiver was so stupid, he’s supposed to be breaking out. How do you know he’s not running the wrong route?
“And then the ref goes, ‘Oh, that makes sense’ and he’d pick up the flag … Nah, that never happened.”
Rob Gronkowski: A man of few words
Future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski joined Peyton and Eli in the second quarter and … well, he didn’t say much.
They tried to get him to comment on T.J. Hockenson’s second-quarter touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone that gave Detroit a 14-7 advantage.
“I taught him that. I don’t know when, but I taught him that,” Gronk said in reference to the third-year tight end from Iowa.
Then, on a later drive where Green Bay was moving the ball efficiently, Peyton asked Gronkowski to chime in about the Packers’ offense.
First came a pregnant pause.
“That’s great. It’s beautiful. … I was kind of dazing off,” Gronk acknowledged. Then Eli cracked: “You’d be a great color guy, Gronk. A real bright future ahead of you.”
To his credit, Gronkowski said he could never be analyst for an entire game, just in a studio for pre-game or halftime comments. At least he knows his limitations.
That time where Eli Manning hopped a bar fence to see Brett Favre
The preamble should have been enough, right? But Eli shared the story of a teenage quarterback trying to meet Green Bay quarterbacking legend Brett Favre by sneaking into a bar in Mississippi.
Eli Manning was aiming to play pool with Favre, but the younger Manning didn’t linger long when one of his best friends didn’t want to be so rebellious. He invoked the “wingman” principle, saying he couldn’t leaved his buddy behind.
“Aw, man, if I’d have known that I’d have just opened up the door and let ya in,” Favre laughed.
In another humorously self-aware moment, Favre had this to say when talking about patience and accepting what the defense gives you on offense: “I think you know the answer … Year 18 or 19 is when I learned to be patient.”
The Pat McAfee Show
The positive momentum the Peyton and Eli broadcast received in Week 1’s Baltimore-Las Vegas overtime tilt certainly was aided by a captivating finish. Analysts wondered how the brothers would fare in a blowout. Detroit-Green Bay wasn’t a total laugher, but with 12 minutes or so remaining, the eventual 35-17 Packers win looked well in hand.
Enter former Indianapolis punter and Manning teammate Pat McAfee, who shared a story about Manning’s power at the roulette table that has to be heard to be believed.
Pat McAfee tells the Peyton Manning-Roulette story. pic.twitter.com/Y6Du0XVIUI
— Justin Groc (@justgroc) September 21, 2021
… Something tells me that tale would make many a Michigan online casino player’s eyes roll.
McAfee also dropped the game’s most overt references to the Michigan sports betting scene late in the action.
In many Michigan sportsbooks, the game line close with Green Bay as an 11.5-point favorite. The Lions were driving toward the end zone for a touchdown that would have been meaningless on the game’s outcome but potentially significant to that spread.
Clad in a tank-top, McAfee was rocking back and forth, leaning closer and further away from the camera on some crunch-time plays. It was rather obvious to observe he had money on the Packers to cover.
And when a fourth-down pass into the end zone by Goff was broken up to secure the Green Bay cover, McAfee let out an audible sigh of relief.
“You’re really into this fourth quarter, Pat!” exclaimed Eli, saying the quiet part out loud without overtly bringing up the betting lines on the broadcast.
And Peyton and Eli (and Favre) actually did talk football … sometimes
These are less eye-grabbing, of course, but some tidbits from the broadcast actually broke down game film, too:
- Peyton and Eli both complimented Goff’s scrambling ability and awareness on his opening touchdown drive that ended with a 6-yard scoring pass to an open Quintez Cephus in the end zone. On an earlier pass to Cephus in the drive, Eli said: “That was not Goff’s first or second read. I can promise you that.”
- Peyton still had his inner quarterback reaction come out when Hockenson had a false-start penalty that put the Lions in a precarious spot. “Aww, he flinched .Come on, Hock! We had a good drive going. You can’t go backwards.”
- Favre couldn’t believe the Lions’ defense decision on the opening drive of the third quarter, which saw Aaron Rodgers complete a bomb to Davante Adams on a third-and-12 that spurred an eventual go-ahead touchdown. “They’re playing Cover 2! I don’t understand it,” he said. … Later, another dime from Rodgers wowed Peyton, who said “the ball caught him. The ball caught (tight end Robert) Tonyan on a 23-yard strike for said go-ahead score.
- Favre concurred that the decision by the Lions; coaching staff to somewhat adapt their play-calling schemes and terminology to Goff’s previous career experience was one that could pay dividends in the short-term. “Much credit, 100%” goes to head coach Dan Campbell, Favre said.