Eli Manning Was Peyton’s Third Favorite Quarterback

In Friday’s Hot Clicks: Peyton Manning makes his list of favorite players, Derek Jeter breaks down the iconic “flip play” and more.
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Typical big brother

Here’s just another way in which I, a 5'9" sportswriter, and Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, are different: Only one of us considers Eli Manning our favorite football player. 

For basically as long as I’ve been able to understand the rules of football, Eli Manning has been the starting quarterback of my favorite team. His first season came when I was 12 years old, and his last came when I started noticing one or two gray hairs in my beard.

With Eli set to officially announce his retirement at a press conference Friday afternoon, Peyton gave a lengthy interview to the Broncos’ website about his brother’s career. 

Peyton looked back on some of Eli’s biggest games, said he enjoyed the opportunity to watch Eli play in person more often in recent years and also made it clear where Eli ranks on his list of favorite NFL players ever. 

“I’m happy for Eli, because I know he’s at peace and he put a lot of time and thought into this decision,” Manning said. “But I am sad, because I won’t get to see him play anymore. And after my dad and Dan Marino, Eli really was my favorite player. So I have to find a new one. But for really 19 years going back to his three years at Ole Miss, 16 years in the NFL, I have enjoyed watching him play, watching him compete, watching him grow into a man. It’s been a heck of a run.”

When I first read the Dan Marino line, I thought it was another example of the sense of humor Peyton showed on SNL. But no, if you watch the video, you can see he says it with a completely straight face and nothing in his voice to indicate that he’s ribbing Eli. (The quote comes at the 8:03 mark of the video below.)

In fact, Peyton has said on multiple occasions that, after his father retired in 1984, Dan Marino became his favorite player. 

“After my dad retired, there was a great quarterback class that came into the NFL,” Peyton told the Broncos’ website in June. “But I just took an interest in Dan Marino. I liked the way he kind of was a field general out there, always kind of in control, always kind of taking command.”

He said something similar when he was still with the Colts. 

“I think it’s important always to have a favorite player at all times, a current player,” he said before Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. “So it went from Archie Manning, to Dan Marino, and then once Dan retired [in 1999], Eli was just starting to play college ball [at Ole Miss], so Eli Manning became my favorite player.”

That quote makes me think that when he told the Broncos’ site that Eli was his favorite player “after my dad and Dan Marino,” he didn’t mean Eli was his third-most favorite but his third, chronologically. On the other hand, Marino was a better player than Eli, and Peyton grew up admiring the Dolphins QB from age 8. He even made his NFL debut against Marino and the Dolphins. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Eli really is third on Peyton’s list. 

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Email dan.gartland@simail.com with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.