I think Eli has grown up a lot from last year to this year. Being a captain of the team, being a senior, he's with all these guys who came in with him as freshmen. He's very, very comfortable in his new role, in which he's being asked to do more than just be the quarterback. [See page 157.] He's having a ball. Winning makes it all fun. But it's a long season.
"I don't think Eli has tapped his full potential, though. He has a very live arm, and I think he's got a big upside. He has a chance to be a really, really good quarterback. But when people say, 'I think Eli's going to be the best [of all the Mannings],' they're full of it. He might end up being great, but I don't see how you can be better than Peyton.
"He'll mature. The jump from high school to college is huge, but the jump from college to pro is even bigger. Eli's going to be wild-eyed and have his head on a swivel next year. I think experience and playing games will prove invaluable to him. If you ask Peyton what helped him most as a pro, he'll tell you it was that first year, going 3-13 and having his coach, Jim Mora, stand behind him and say, 'You're our guy. Throw a hundred interceptions, and I'm sticking with you.' I think Mora deserves a lot of credit for that.
"Eli hasn't had a real bad day yet. It's funny, but it's easy to compare the Colts and Ole Miss. It's remarkable how similar their ups and downs have been. Historically, both have had offenses that could put up a lot of points and defenses that surrendered more points. The last couple of years on offense Eli has panicked because he felt if he didn't put up a lot of points, he was letting the team down. But every now and then you're supposed to sneak in a 9-6 win. Until this year Ole Miss just didn't win those games; we weren't even in them. If we had six points, the other team had 48. So the idea of Eli's throwing for 145 yards [on Oct. 25] and beating Arkansas 19-7—that's a new type of game for us. The team is just better.
"I don't care how good you are at quarterback, if the team is not playing well, the individual highlights are going to be minimal. The ball has bounced right for Ole Miss the last couple of games, but Eli is quick to admit that he isn't on a team that's so good that all he has to do is show up. He'll have to play his best every week if he expects to win."