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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Eli and Coughlin have greatness in common

Head coach Tom Coughlin, right, hands the VInce

Head coach Tom Coughlin, right, hands the VInce Lombardi Trophy to Eli Manning after their victory in Super Bowl XLVI. (Feb. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

INDIANAPOLISTom Coughlin is more than twice as old as Eli Manning, but they have just about everything in common when it comes to their approach to football.

As the 65-year-old Coughlin ticked off the attributes he considers the linchpins of success for the 31-year-old Manning, you quickly realize just how similar these men are and why they're celebrating their second Super Bowl championship.

"Eli is the type of individual who is confident but not arrogant; he's always thought about team first, and he's the perfect guy in that regard," a sleep-deprived Coughlin said yesterday morning, less than 12 hours after Manning led the Giants to a 21-17 comeback win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

"He has taken responsibility for this team, has shown great ownership in terms of the way he has maneuvered."

The coach could just as easily be talking about himself. Coughlin, the no-nonsense leader who doesn't have an ounce of pretentiousness in him, is everything he sees in Manning. Self-assured without ego. Always putting the team ahead of the individual.

Coughlin and Manning are forever linked in Giants tradition, and there's potential for more rings. Coughlin has shown no inclination to retire anytime soon, Eli is in his prime, and the rest of the roster is young enough and talented enough to contend for at least the next four seasons.

Manning, who is 8-3 in the postseason, bolstered his contention from last August that he deserves to be considered an elite quarterback. "I think that question's come and gone," Coughlin said. "I don't think we'll hear much about that again."

Manning proved he belongs among the elite, joining Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana, as well as future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, as the only multiple Super Bowl MVPs.

But Eli would rather talk about those around him than personal accomplishments. It's the way he has always been. After Sunday's game, he turned the focus to others. Such as Mario Manningham, who made a critical 38-yard catch on the winning drive. It was a terrific play by Manningham, who barely kept his feet inbounds, but it also was a perfect throw by Manning.

"I tried to put it where he would catch it or nobody would,'' he said, "and he made a great catch."

In the stadium where his older brother has starred for the Colts, Eli won his second title. But this wasn't about surpassing Peyton's Super Bowl victory total in his NFL hometown.

"This isn't about bragging rights," Eli said of any competition with Peyton, who is recovering from neck problems. "This is a lot bigger. This is about a team and an organization being champions."

Eli still might have to win more Super Bowls to convince others of his greatness, however. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner still considers Peyton the better Manning.

"Peyton's one of the best, if not the best, quarterback this league has ever seen," Warner said last week. "So just because you win one more Super Bowl than him does not mean you're better than him. It's no slight on Eli. Eli has played great. But we have to be honest."

Honestly, Eli may not match Peyton's regular-season greatness, but in a sport in which winning championships is the ultimate measure of a quarterback, Eli is more likely to wind up No. 1.

Maybe they can settle the debate in Canton, Ohio, where the Pro Football Hall of Fame awaits both.

New York Sports