For the first time in more than 19 years, a Manning does not reign atop the quarterback depth chart for an NFL franchise.
Since Peyton Manning lined up behind center for the Indianapolis Colts in a losing effort against the Miami Dolphins on September 6, 1998, a Manning—Peyton or Eli—has started at quarterback for an NFL team. Peyton’s run of consecutive starts ended in early 2011 before starting up again (and ending in a more pleasant way than Eli’s). Little Brother’s run lasted from November 21, 2004, until, well, Sunday, when Geno Smith starts in his stead for the New York Giants. It’s not exactly Lou Gehrig beating out Wally Pipp for the starting job, is it?
How long ago did this Manning-Manning run begin?
When Peyton Manning took his first regular season NFL snap, Tuesday’s with Morrie (a book with Manning-like staying power) sat atop the New York Times bestsellers list. Two days earlier Sergey Brin and Larry Page started Google. In other words, the last time a Manning didn’t sit atop an NFL QB depth chart, Google did not exist. Think on that. The number-one movie in the country when the Colts first called Peyton their number-one quarterback was There’s Something About Mary, a movie featuring a memorable cameo from another Hall of Famer with amazing durability. His name? Brett Farvrer.
ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts Eli’s historic run in perspective. He writes:
while the Giants have started just one quarterback over the last 210 games of regular-season football, the Browns have started a preposterous 24.
Manning’s streak began on November 21, 2004, when he was called upon to start in place of the struggling Kurt Warner. On that day the Browns started Jeff Garcia at quarterback in a 10-7 loss to the Jets. Garcia was hurt in that game and replaced by Kelly Holcomb, who would start the next week. Holcomb himself started only one week before he was replaced by Luke McCown. So just three games into Manning’s streak, the Browns had already started three different quarterbacks.
It didn’t get much better after that. Here’s the full list of quarterbacks who have started for the Browns during the same time that the Giants have started only one quarterback: Jeff Garcia, Kelly Holcomb, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Ken Dorsey, Brady Quinn, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thaddeus Lewis, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw, Josh McCown, Austin Davis, Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan.
During that 13-year span, Eli Manning won two Super Bowls and earned four Pro Bowl nods. A Manning not playing, like the league itself these days, strikes as something out of The Twilight Zone. Joe Namath in a Rams uniform shakes his head. Johnny Unitas wearing Charger blue joins him. It ain’t right.
But the NFL, we recall, stands for Not For Long. Eli learned that the hard way, and now the man so used to riding high rides the pine.
A 2-9 record tends to have that effect on a man—even a Manning.