Peaceful, easy feeling
Giants' Manning quietly adapts to NFL's biggest stage
Posted: Wednesday January 30, 2008 2:31PM; Updated: Friday February 1, 2008 12:46AM
PHOENIX -- Eli Manning looks at ease here, totally. If you were dropped in here and were shown the two quarterbacks for this game in the public eye and asked who looks more relaxed and ready to play, I bet you might have trouble picking between Manning and Tom Brady -- and Brady's been in this environment three previous times, of course.
"Eli gives you the aw-shucks thing pretty well,'' Michael Strahan told me Tuesday night at the taping for the HBO "Inside the NFL'' show. "But he's totally in charge now. He's a lot better leader than anybody on the outside thinks.''
When I hear people talk about this game, one of the things I invariably hear -- fairly -- is that Brady's big-game experience gives him an edge over Manning, a rookie in this game and a guy who, until a month ago, was in a very bad slump. I agree Brady will play big Sunday in Super Bowl 42. But I don't agree that the gravity of the moment will get to Manning come Sunday. Dismissively, he said: "I don't think that'll be a problem at all.'' Next question.
I buy it. In SI last week, I quoted Archie Manning talking about his youngest son thusly: "He's not the type of guy, never has been, to say much about anything to people on the outside. Maybe it's because he's the youngest, I don't know. Our son Cooper has a 2-year-old son who's not talking yet, and other day [my wife] Olivia said, 'Well, Eli didn't talk 'til he was 3.' ''
Does that say everything about Eli Manning, or what?
He's come a long way. He's even become a guy to fear in the locker room. In the SI story, Brandon Jacobs said, "I pick up my cell phone one day and go to use it, and somebody's turned the keyboard into Spanish. I can't figure out how to fix it, so I got to one of our [Hispanic] cafeteria guys, and he fixes it. Eli comes up to me a couple of days later and says, 'So, you been practicing your Spanish?' I say, 'It was you, you son of a b----!' ... He keeps us laughing. The people on the outside don't know the real Eli.' ''
"He's doing everything the right way,'' Strahan said.
This game will not be too big for him.
I'll have a Five Things I Think at the Super Bowl today through Friday, then a quick analysis of the Hall of Fame voting late Saturday afternoon.
Now for today's Five Things:
1. I think this was about the dumbest thing I've heard this week so far. When ESPN's Emmitt Smith was asked on TV about Plaxico Burress' prediction of a 23-17 Giants victory, Smith said: "His prediction will get him double-coverage.'' I can only hope Smith either mis-spoke or was somehow exaggerating, because to imagine that the Patriots would be moved to change their defensive plan against Burress because of something he said prior to the game is ridiculous.
2. I think Adalius Thomas has totally bought into the Pats' preparation-is-everything stuff. "Sunday's game will be won long before Sunday,'' he said this morning. The Belichick dogma. It's works.
3. I think everyone here wishes you the best, Mike Wilbon, after your mild heart attack. Take care of yourself.
4. I think I have never seen someone so comfortable, so at ease, so cogent, so interesting on the Super Bowl stage as Strahan is this week. I honestly think the man could talk about himself for three hours, non-stop, and be illustrative and fun and blunt in the 180th minutes. "I don't care about anyone else right now. This is my experience,'' he said this morning. "At certain points in my life, I have to be selfish.''
5. I think the Newark Star-Ledger is doing an incredible job this week. One of the things I've loved reading online -- in the paper that lands in my driveway every day back home is -- is the Kevin Manahan stuff. His travel stories while he drives cross-country to Phoenix, beginning with getting a haircut from defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's wife in suburban Philly and then talking to Lawrence Tynes' brother in jail in Florida, have been terrific.