Last Friday down in New Orleans, a high school freshman named Arch Manning completed 22 of 34 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns to lead Isidore Newman to a 41-15 victory in his first career start.
One high school football game doesn’t mean anything for the future, of course. Just mentioning a freshman QB isn’t fair to the freshman QB.
And yet, while young Arch is four years from being eligible for college and seven or eight from the NFL – if he even progresses to either level of the game – his emergence is not a moment too soon for fans who have grown up or become accustomed to having a Manning in their football lives.
Arch is the grandson of Archie Manning, the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning and the son of Cooper Manning, making him the third generation of what is arguably America’s first family of football.
And it is a football family that is experiencing a rare transition.
On Tuesday the New York Giants announced rookie Daniel Jones would be their Week 3 starter, meaning mainstay and future Hall of Famer Eli Manning would be a backup.
It is just the second time since the 1998 season that a Manning isn’t a starting NFL QB. That’s when Peyton, the No. 1 pick overall, began his lengthy career with the Indianapolis Colts.
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Unlike Week 13 of the 2017 season, the only other time Eli sat, this has the potential to be permanent. If Jones plays as well as the Giants hope (they drafted him sixth overall out of Duke last spring) then Eli may never see another snap.
Eli is a Giants legend, but Jones is the future.
Still, that’s 21-plus seasons with a Manning brother running a team. Peyton racked up 292 career starts (265 of them in the regular season) from 1998-2015 with Indy and Denver. Eli had 244 starts (232 in the regular season) from 2004-until this past Sunday, all with the Giants.
Prior to that there was Archie, who started 139 games (mostly for New Orleans) from 1971-1984.
The NFL is 100 years old this year and perhaps no single family has had a greater impact on the league – at least on the field.
Archie was a hugely popular player in New Orleans, helping establish fan passion for the franchise despite playing on some terrible clubs.
Peyton and Eli, meanwhile, combined for six Super Bowl appearances (and four titles) not to mention countless big playoff and regular-season games. Together they proved to be the most resistant foil to the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady New England super program that has dominated the league the past couple of decades.
And yet, just like that, it might be no more Mannings.
The three of them combined for 337 regular-season victories and 22 more in the playoffs. There is a total of 162,552 yards passing, 1,084 touchdowns thrown, 81 comebacks and 103 game-winning drives. They even rushed for 46 touchdowns, playoffs included.
Of course, the NFL stats tell only part of the story.
All three were major stars at the college level, with Archie and Eli leading Ole Miss to some of its greatest seasons, and Peyton turning Tennessee into a high-profile national program. All three are either in, or will be in, the college football Hall of Fame. Both Peyton and Eli are shoo-ins for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Archie has spent time as a prominent college broadcaster and served on the College Football Playoff committee. Peyton and Eli have starred in an array of national television commercials (especially Peyton) and even hosted “Saturday Night Live.”
For the past quarter of a century the family has run the Manning Passing Academy each summer in Louisiana. It hasn’t just help develop high school quarterbacks but served as a place for college and future NFL stars to serve as counselors and refine their game. Nine future No. 1 picks (from Sam Darnold to Jameis Winston to Matthew Stafford) have worked the camp and it’s not just quarterbacks – Odell Beckham Jr. and other receivers once ran routes there.
The Mannings have been – and will continue to be – everywhere (sorry, but you’ll be stuck humming that Nationwide jingle for many years to come).
All dynasties end, of course. All careers come to a close. Maybe with the Mannings it just felt like they wouldn’t.
They were all remarkably durable. Archie famously took a beating with the Saints but always came back. Peyton started every game of his first 13 seasons before missing a year with a neck injury that was supposedly career threatening. He wound up returning for four seasons in Denver, where he missed just six games in his final year.
Eli was even more reliable, at one point starting 210 straight regular-season games.
There were all the big rivalries, the Super Bowls and the controversies (Archie forcing Eli out of San Diego to New York, Peyton receiving curious shipments to his home).
And they always welcomed the spotlight. At Peyton’s final playoff run after the 2015 season, the NFL routinely handed out locker room quote sheets of not just Archie but brother Cooper, whose own career as a wide receiver was cut short while he was at Ole Miss.
Now it is Cooper’s son who may one day carry on the family business. Peyton’s twin boys are just 8. Eli’s lone son was born this year; he joins three older sisters. No one knows if any of them want to play football, let alone if they are good enough to make a life of it.
No one knows with Arch either. Being a freshman starter is pressure enough on the kid.
But as the Mannings finally, officially, transition out of NFL on-field prominence, there is at least a spark of hope that the name will be back. Until then, all eyes on Isidore Newman.
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