DiBiase: It’s about time for Eli to ‘Man’ up

Justin Dibiase

January 3, 1981 was a happy day for the Manning family. Young Peyton most likely was playing catch with brother Cooper in a New Orleans hospital waiting room, flaunting his rocket arm and bright smile to nurses passing by.

After several hours of terrorizing hospital workers with their juvenile antics, proud daddy Archie gathered his two boys and took them into a room to see their mother and new baby brother.

“This is your new little brother Elisha,” Archie told them.

I can’t help but think that after beholding his baby bro, Peyton’s response went something like this: “Are ya’ sure he’s ours, Dad?”

In his three seasons in New York Giants blue, Eli Manning hasn’t reached the star status of his future hall-of-fame brother Peyton. That much is obvious. However, not many people thought on the day Eli entered the league that he would be this far behind Peyton. As Peyton sits on his golden throne of endless television advertisements and individual honors, Eli is struggling with his public image as former teammate Tiki Barber questions his leadership qualities.

Barber appeared on national television and described Eli’s attempt at leading a midseason meeting as “comical.”

Eli lashed back at Barber when reporters spoke with him. Eli criticized Barber for questioning Head Coach Tom Coughlin and announcing his retirement during the middle of the season.

Eli is now entering his fourth season in professional football. The time is now for Eli to prove Barber and all doubters wrong. However, the likelihood of his team winning in the highly competitive NFC East is slim. A banged-up defense and a patchwork offensive line will not help Eli in his quest to prove himself.

Comparatively, his brother Peyton struggled in only his first season with the Indianapolis Colts with a quarterback rating of 71.2. Currently, Peyton has the second-highest passer rating of all time, trailing only Steve Young. In three years, Eli has not eclipsed a passer rating of 80.

Many people have criticized Barber for making those comments about his former quarterback. In actuality, Barber was just doing his job. The only person not doing his job at times is Eli. The comments made were not malicious, nor were they personal. Barber earned his stripes in the NFL. Barber retired at the age of 31 as the Giants’ all-time leader in rushing and receptions. Barber was the leader of the Giants’ offensive attack for almost a decade. He had every right to question Eli’s leadership skills. On the other hand, Eli had no right questioning Barber’s heart. Until his final play, Barber had more heart than a girl on Valentine’s Day.

When Eli fired back, questioning Barber’s heart and commitment to the team during the previous season, it seemed Eli was displaying his own insecurity in replying to Barber. Though Eli claimed that he “wouldn’t lose sleep” over the comments, he certainly let them affect him.

Eli isn’t the first younger sibling struggling to reach the success of their elder. Barry Bonds younger brother, Bobby Bonds Jr., never made it past Triple-A ball. Jeremy Giambi never quite could hit a fastball like his older brother Jason. Mario Lemieux’s brother Alaine did not fair too well in professional hockey either.

Eli is off to a promising start in two preseason games. However, preseason success does not equate to success in the playoffs. The Giants are counting on Eli more now than ever before. With the loss of Barber, defenses will be keying in on the Giants’ air game and more specifically, No. 10 behind center. The Giants are also thin at quarterback. So, even though Eli is under heavy pressure this season, his job is fairly safe.

If Eli doesn’t show more progress and consistency on and off the field, he may lose his job and join the ever-growing list of first-round quarterback busts that recently welcomed Tim Couch and David Carr. Consensus says that Eli will never be Peyton, nor should he try to be. He will need to find different ways to reach the level of success Peyton achieved and maybe, just maybe, bring another Lombardi trophy to the Manning family. Otherwise, Eli will look more like the son of Archie Bunker than Archie Manning.


Justin DiBiase is a junior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]