Posted: Tuesday December 5, 2006 1:19PM; Updated: Sunday December 10, 2006 11:34PM
Are Eli and Peyton Manning the best brother combo in sports?
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While watching the trials and tribulations of Eli Manning the past month, determining he will never be the field general of his brother Peyton, I started wondering: Of all the brothers who've played professional sports, which pair, or trio, was the best?
First, some ground rules. No taking a Brent Gretzky, who had one goal in 13 games his NHL career, and adding his totals to that of big brother Wayne (894 goals) to make the absurd claim that the Gretzky boys were the most productive brothers ever. (That goes for the Howe brothers: Gordie had 801 goals, brother Vic had three.) We're looking for brothers who had careers that, individually, stood out from their peers.
There are a lot to choose from. In professional football alone there have been more than 300 sets of brothers who played, from the Abdullahs (Rahim and Khalid) to the Zolls (Marty, Carl and Dick). Yet no two brothers have both been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kickers Chris and Matt Bahr are easily the highest scoring brothers in football history with 2,635 points between them. But they're kickers! That can't count.
Hall of Fame lineman John Hannah had a brother, Charley, who also played 11 seasons with Tampa Bay and Oakland. Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen played on the same defensive line as his brother, Phil, for four seasons with the L.A. Rams. Lee Roy Selmon made it to Canton as a defensive end with Tampa Bay, and played five years with his brother, Dewey. Ronde and Tiki Barber might be considered, though it's doubtful both are headed for the Hall. There was Shannon and SterlingSharpe and Terrence and Torry Holt. The Mannings, if Eli continues to play like he did on Sunday against the Cowboys, might someday be the best gridiron brothers ever.
But right now my personal choice for the best pair of brothers in NFL history is Bruce and Clay Matthews. Each, unbelievably, played 19 seasons. Bruce was named to 14 Pro Bowls with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Oilers/Titans as an offensive lineman. And Clay was a four-time Pro Bowler at linebacker for the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons.
It's a little surprising to me that basketball hasn't produced more great brother combinations, since all a pair of talented siblings need to hone their skills is a ball, a hoop and a driveway. At some point you'd think an NBA team would have won a championship with a pair of brothers making up their entire backcourt. But the fact is only two pair of brothers ever played on the same NBA team, Tom and Dick Van Arsdale, twins whose careers stretched from 1965 to '77, and Brent and Mark Price with Washington in 1995-96. The Arsdales each averaged about 15 points a game and combined for some 27,600 points.