ATLANTA – Notice anything missing from Super Bowl LIII?
Besides points and the Rams offense and a fresh-faced victor and decent commercials, that is.
No, there was something that had been part of just about every one of the past dozen Super Bowls but was conspicuously absent from this one, and you probably didn’t even realize it.
The Giants quarterback’s first son arrived over the weekend — Charles “Charlie” Elisha Manning was born just after midnight on Super Bowl Sunday — and he was in town late in the week, but understandably he barely made a peep and never really registered on any Super Bowl radars.
Manning has had a public role in the big game just about every year since Super Bowl XLI when he played the role of supportive little brother to Peyton, right up to last year when he stole the show by lifting Odell Beckham Jr. over his head in a Super Bowl Sunday commercial. Of course, there were the two that he actually played in and won, too.
But this year, the Super Bowl went on mostly sans Eli. He made a few private corporate appearances, but gave no interviews and made no news. He did not make the rounds on Radio Row the way other Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks do.
He was not part of any public Man of the Year functions. Steve Harvey didn’t crack any Eli jokes in his monologue at "NFL Honors." Heck, he was barely in the final cut of the NFL’s big 100th anniversary commercial. He wasn’t even hoisted up, as he had been for past Patriots appearances, as the guy who could beat Belichick and Brady in this game. That job fell to Nick Foles this year. Those are things he didn’t have to be there in person to be part of.
For a decade and a half Manning was the face of the Giants franchise and one of the league’s go-to profiles. Now, it seems, Beckham and Saquon Barkley have taken over that role. When it comes to the NFL’s rotating Mt. Rushmore, Eli Manning may be no more.
That’s fine if that’s the case. Those are cyclical things that mean very little in regard to actual football.
But it does create an interesting dynamic for a team that has those now front-and-center stars and is giving all indications that it will be sticking with Manning at quarterback, at least to start the 2019 season.
The Giants, it seems, are some of the last to be hung up on Manning.
There’s a chance they’re right. There is a possibility that next year at this time many will be lining up to apologize for counting Manning out, wondering whether his third ring ensures a first-ballot entrance to the Hall of Fame, and ranking him among the greatest quarterback ever to play.
More likely, though, the next time the Giants get to the Super Bowl it will be with a different quarterback at the helm. Barkley may be there. Beckham may be there.
But Manning? Let’s just say this week may have been a practice run for Giants fans to get used to Super Bowls without him.