If you’re a Patriots fan, it’s not just expected that you find the Manning brothers annoying. It’s also encouraged, and justifiable.
They were overpromoted as football royalty during their time as second-generation NFL quarterbacks, Hall of Famer Peyton for 17 seasons with the Colts and Broncos, and likely-if-not-necessarily-deserving future Hall of Famer Eli for 16 seasons with the Giants.
They were rivals and obstructions to the Patriots, particularly two-time Super Bowl miracle worker Eli, and I trust that no further exposition is necessary or desired.
Well, I regret to inform that even though both are retired, there’s something else that is going to annoy Patriots fans about them: On ESPN2′s “ManningCast,” the alternative/complement to the standard “Monday Night Football” broadcast on ESPN, the brothers are immensely, irresistibly likable.
You may want to dislike them. You may be trained to dislike them. But you won’t be able to dislike them. They’re too funny, charming, and insightful.
I know. It’s so incredibly annoying when the Mannings win.
But it’s the truth: ESPN has gold here. The brothers are essentially positioned as “Mystery Science Theater 3000”-style commentators. They will do this for 10 “MNF” games this season, Eli from his home and Peyton from a studio in Denver; it probably would be even better if they were at the same locale, but it’s not essential.
Peyton tends to lead the conversation — he is the Type A personality and the older brother — while Eli tends to wield a sharper sense of humor.
During the show’s debut last Monday for Ravens-Raiders, Eli got in at least three jokes about the size of Peyton’s head (the thing is like Sputnik), the funniest when he asked Ray Lewis, one of several guests, a loaded question:
“Ray, would you want one of his helmets filled with quarters or $10,000 in cash? Which would be worth more?”
There were some rough edges — Peyton was so amped up in the beginning you half-expected him to start yelling “OMAHA! OMAHA!” and perhaps run through the wall — but they don’t necessarily need to be smoothed out. Technical difficulties, such as an alarm randomly going off in the background (”Eli, what did you do?” asked Peyton), are part of the casual charm.
It’s the closest sports television has come to producing a broadcast that captures the vibe a fan gets when watching a game with friends. Even if in this case, the “friends” happen to be famous multimillionaire quarterback siblings who interfered with some of your favorite team’s championship aspirations.
But it works. It works really well. I’m not sure I’d want to watch this broadcast if the Patriots were playing, because the Mannings’ banter and digressions can make it tough to follow what’s happening on the field.
But for a random game you’re not too invested in? They’re excellent company.
So pass the chips and salsa, Eli, because it feels like we’re right there with you. Keep the Peyton noggin jokes coming. And don’t you dare bring up you-know-what.
Teammate Tara Sullivan, apparently making call-and-response among Globe writers a thing (I’m all in on that), asked a question of me in a recent column: Which former Patriots would do well in a show similar to the “ManningCast.”
It’s a great question, and I actually think it’s a long list. The Mannings’ easy chemistry and sense of humor — they’re both willing to be the butt of the joke — are perhaps the biggest reasons it works. You can’t replicate the nuanced connection of being brothers, you know?
Which is why I think it would work with Devin and Jason McCourty (now with the Dolphins). Both are insightful, smart, and funny, as they demonstrated (Devin during many more appearances) on NBC Sports Boston’s “Quick Slants” through the years.
Other Patriots pairings? Rob Ninkovich and Chris Long were basically a comedy team during their season as teammates in 2016, and both have gone on to successful media careers.
Ty Law and Troy Brown were always entertaining when they were together on NBC Sports Boston’s game-day programming. (Law, Peyton Manning’s nemesis in the early years of the Patriots dynasty, should guest on the “ManningCast.”)
A group of ex-Patriots in the media who remain close friends — Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, and Rodney Harrison — would be interesting if they did it for a Patriots game. Oh, I’d listen to Randy Moss talk about anything.
And you know who else would be excellent if he wanted to be, as evidenced by his NFL Network “NFL 100 All-Time Team” contribution for which he won an Emmy Award?
That’s right. Bill Belichick would make a superb real-time analyst.
Sign up for Patriots updates🏈
Get breaking news and analysis delivered to your inbox during football season.