Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A ring for Eli Manning?

Peyton thinks brother is on right path and also could be a champ

Newsday Staff Correspondent

February 6, 2007

MIAMI -- Peyton Manning had taken time to savor his first Super Bowl win and his MVP award for leading the Colts to a 29-17 victory over the Bears on Sunday night. Yesterday, he promised that his kid brother will stand in the same spot someday.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Eli will lead his team to a Super Bowl, probably more than one," Peyton said. "I know how hard he works. There's no question he's going to be fine."

The quarterback brothers talk plenty of football during the season, exchanging tips on defenses one of them has seen. Eli told Newsday on Friday that Peyton had barely sat down to relax in his Indianapolis home after beating the Patriots for the AFC championship when he started asking Eli for tips on the Bears.

Sunday night - early yesterday morning, actually - the two were talking football again, even though there are no more games to be played this season.

"We talked, like we do after games. We got into the X's and O's," Peyton said. "He sees things like I see things. He said, 'The safety is really holding his looks to the very end and coming down late.' It's fun to talk about a game you just won with your brother, who's an NFL quarterback."

Eli's Giants started this season playing Peyton's Colts, and for the Manning family, there might have been as much hype for that game as there was for the Super Bowl. The Colts won in September, 26-21, at Giants Stadium and won their next eight, a typical run for Peyton.

Eli and the Giants ... well, you know how that went. A 6-2 start, a midgame meltdown against the Bears and a stumble to a .500 finish. Along with plenty of questions about Eli's maturation in his second full season of starting.

Now that Peyton has his coveted ring, his status as one of the game's great quarterbacks is assured. He said Eli, who at 26 is almost five years younger, is still on the right path.

"He's been a huge supporter of me throughout my entire career and life," Peyton said. "I'm a huge supporter of him. He's been right there, with the rest of my family."

There already have been plenty of changes for Eli - his old position coach, Kevin Gilbride, is his new offensive coordinator, and Chris Palmer is his position coach - and Peyton could see some new faces when the Colts begin their title defense.

His quarterbacks coach, Jim Caldwell, might get a chance to interview with the Cowboys for their head-coaching job. Dominic Rhodes, who ran for 113 yards Sunday, is a free agent. So are defensive end Dwight Freeney and linebacker Cato June. Even coach Tony Dungy is weighing whether to retire now that he has won a Super Bowl, the first for a black head coach.

But Peyton, who hasn't missed a game in nine NFL seasons, is the Colts' constant. He finally won by not being the impatient Peyton of old, by settling for short completions and handoffs in the rain Sunday. But he's not looking to kick back now.

"In some cases, I've seen past quarterbacks that have won a Super Bowl getting 'the pass.' They kind of get the pass when they have a bad year. People say, 'He won a Super Bowl; we'll give him the pass,'" he said. "I guess what I'm saying is, I don't want the pass. I want to be held accountable each and every year. Next year, my goal is to be better, and I feel like I should be because of the experience I gained this year."

So Lets Give Peyton a hand here People. Anyone seen that Monkey??