By Justin McCahren
Eli Manning keeps surprising people. When drafted out of Ole Miss, the younger brother of Peyton Manning was highly regarded. Yet he wasn’t Peyton, he wasn’t considered a can’t miss prospect like his brother. After a rough rookie season in 2004, people had their doubts. That rookie year he started 9 games and had a QB rating of 55.4. (Yes, that’s bad) After being thrown to the wolves in 2004, people weren’t sure if he’d be confident enough to take the reigns by 2005. He not only took the reigns, but he threw for over 3,000 yards and tossed 24 touchdowns. His New York Giants made the playoffs that season.
Eli would throw three interceptions in the Giants playoff loss to Carolina. Just like the rough rookie season, Eli used that motivation and the new doubters to carry him into 2006 and beyond. After losing again in the playoffs at the end of the 2006 season, Manning was starting to look and feel more confident on the field. Though the Giants were one and done in the playoffs again, he performed better and Giants fans began to see Manning in a different light. What has happened since has been eye popping.
Eli has quite simply become one of the best quarterbacks and personalities in the NFL. In the two playoff runs at the end of 2007 and 2011 that culminated in Super Bowl victories, Mannings stats are staggering. He posted a 95.5 QB rating, while throwing for 2,073 yards and 15 touchdowns. And oh yeah, he’s 2-0 against the venerable Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. He’s not only turned out to be a can’t miss like his brother, but he holds one more ring than Peyton.
This past Saturday night he challenged Peyton’s skills in another arena: the fast paced, sketch comedy chaos of Saturday Night Live. Just like his transformation as a player, Eli’s personality has evolved as well. Many were skeptical of him as a host, he absolutely killed it. Every sketch was outrageous. The monologue was a tad shaky at first, it was the typical Q&A bit that the host will do with the audience. When asked about his reccomondation for a Broadway show, Eli turned it around. “Cats,” he proclaimed, “you gotta see Cats. It’s cats who can sing!” When the couple astutely asked if Cats was still playing, Eli retorted, “I don’t know, I saw the add on tv when I was a kid and it looked so great. You know what? Even if it’s not playing, do what I do. Put the Cats soundtrack on your I-Pod and go to the pet store and look at some cats. It’s like you’re watching a bunch of singing cats.” It only got funnier from there.
He sold his awkward celebration dances for at the EA Sports motion capture studios. Keenan Thompson chipped in as a large Ray Lewis while Andy Samberg played Troy Polamalu. Manning played a defendant in a murder trial and had to verify texts that he made at the time of the murder, the pic of him with a banana will be all over the internet in no time. The “Little Brothers” program video was perhaps the funniest skit of the night. He helps younger brothers who have problems with big brothers. The ruckus skit ends with Andy Samberg in the trunk and Eli yelling, “Maybe now, you’ll treat your brother with some respect, Peyton!” He then slams the trunk as Andy is screaming that his name isn’t Peyton. Followed by the “Little Brothers”slogan, and a hilarious evil laugh. He also pulled off the roles of an activist, a game show contestant, a Swedish soccer player, a drag queen beauty pageant contestant, and Cheech and Chongs responsible friend Richard. He also introduced Rihanna, and- this just in, she’s going places. She seductively dazzled the live audience with her unmistakeably sultry tones.
The point of all this…I didn’t think Eli had it in him. Just like Giants fans in the early going with Manning. Just like the doubters prior to each postseason Super Bowl run that Eli and the Giants pulled off. He started out an awkward, shy, Mississippi country boy. Now he’s a two time Super Bowl champion New Yorker. He also proved why he’s grown as a teammate and a leader by having his entire offensive line in attendance. Good show, Eli Manning.
After the “Weekend Update” sketch, SNL payed tribute to Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. They played a clip of him rapping on “Sure Shot” on a previous SNL appearance. It was classy move by Lorne Michaels and head writer Seth Meyers.