Archie Manning woke up Tuesday morning knowing he would strike gold during the evening, and it meant a lot to the 67-year-old patriarch from the First Family of Quarterbacks.
The former Saints quarterback and civic-minded dad of Eli and Peyton (and Cooper) is the winner of the Gold Medal from the National Football Foundation, his prize at the 59th NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf. The medal, being awarded to this NFF chairman for his leadership, values and contributions to football and the country, has gone to seven presidents, John Wayne, Jackie Robinson and 53 others.
“John Wayne and Jackie Robinson just kind of jumped out at me,” Manning said following a morning press conference at the Manhattan hotel. “… It’s the most wonderful award that I’ve ever received.”
That’s from someone in the College Football Hall of Fame thanks to his Ole Miss days. The newly retired Peyton surely is headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But does Archie think Eli, who has earned two rings just like Peyton, is also worthy of being enshrined in Canton someday?
“I do,” he said. “He’s my son. But I don’t vote and I don’t [usually] express opinions on people whether they’re Hall of Famers or not. But I do respect the people who do vote for that.”
Eli’s offense hasn’t met expectations despite the Giants’ 8-4 record. The eldest Manning sees the 31st-ranked running game as a crucial element at a time when the Giants are trying to make a run at a playoff spot.
“I know they want to run the ball better,” Archie said. “You don’t abandon that plan even though some Sundays, it’s not what you want. If they ever do, if they get there, when you run it, everything else kind of opens up.
“I don’t stick my nose in it. I don’t talk to Eli about game plans. I’m crazy about Ben [McAdoo], but I never would bother him.”
Eli has tossed 22 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions. The 13th-year pro has flown by the 3,000-yard mark for the 12th straight season, joining Peyton, Brett Favre and Drew Brees has the only quarterbacks to do that. Plus, Eli is up to 195 straight starts, third among quarterbacks behind Favre and Peyton.
“I think Eli is doing his job,” his father said. “… Eli uses his years of experience. I know he always wants to play better, but I’m always proud of Eli and the way he plays his position and his leadership ability and the way he handles himself.”
He turns 36 on Jan. 3. There are three years left on his contract.
“I think Eli will play as long as he feels he’s a good NFL quarterback,” Archie said. “Physically, Eli has been very blessed. Playing up here, there’s always going to be some criticism. Any quarterback, it goes up and down. I think the thing I’m proudest of Eli: He always answers the bell. He’s there every Sunday.”