By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
PHOENIX, Feb. 4 -- The New England Patriots' dynasty has given way to the Mannings' dynasty.
When the New York Giants beat the Patriots in a stunning Super Bowl upset Sunday night, they did more than merely keep New England from completing an unbeaten season and winning a fourth Super Bowl title in seven years. The Giants also gave a second straight Super Bowl triumph to the Manning quarterbacks, as Eli reached the pinnacle a year after his older brother, Peyton, won his first Super Bowl in Miami with the Indianapolis Colts.
"We're grateful to Archie and Olivia," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday morning of the quarterbacks' parents, "and hoping they have at least one more child."
Eli Manning appeared at the annual day-after-the-game news conference for the Super Bowl's most valuable player looking tired from a sleepless night but sporting a big grin. Peyton and other family members were in town for the game, along with a cadre of friends that included high school and college buddies. The group celebrated and watched game highlights until early Monday morning, and Eli said it was useless to try to sleep when he finally got back to his hotel room. There was too much running through his mind and he passed the time replaying the high points of the game in his head.
There was plenty for him to savor from the Giants' 17-14 victory, forged on Manning's 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining. It might not go down as the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. The Giants, after all, already had demonstrated that they could compete with the Patriots, losing by only three points in the teams' regular season finale at Giants Stadium. But they kept the Patriots from joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only undefeated teams in NFL history, and Manning continued a postseason run of success that announced his arrival as a more-than-capable NFL quarterback.
That often had been in doubt since then-Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi surrendered a king's ransom of draft choices to obtain Manning in a draft day trade with the San Diego Chargers in 2004. When this season's playoffs began, Manning still was without a postseason win. He had thrown 20 interceptions to go with 23 touchdown passes in another up-and-down regular season. It still seemed that he would have a difficult time living up to the expectations of being a Manning, of being a former top overall pick in the draft, of playing in New York and being the player for whom Accorsi had mortgaged the future of the franchise.
But now, after breezing through the NFC playoffs without throwing an interception and engineering Sunday night's clutch game-winning drive, Manning suddenly is the toast of the town and the sport. He's a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
"You're a Super Bowl champion," Manning said Monday, "and that's a difference. [But] it doesn't change my attitude or my personality or my goals for next season. That's the same. . . . I've got to become a better quarterback. That's my goal. Toward the end of the season I was playing well, but I have to do it for a whole season."
The Super Bowl marked the 10th time in Manning's career that he won a game with a fourth-quarter comeback. Suddenly, the quarterback who was criticized by former Giants tailback Tiki Barber before the season for not being a leader looks like a highly effective, albeit understated, leader.
"I never doubted myself," Manning said. "I never lost confidence. I think as a quarterback, that's the most important thing. You can never lose confidence in yourself. . . . I'm very comfortable in my own skin. I am who I am. I wasn't going to change."
Goodell called the game "a most remarkable Super Bowl." The Patriots were on the precipice of being hailed as the greatest team in history when they took a 14-10 lead on quarterback Tom Brady's six-yard touchdown pass to wideout Randy Moss with 2 minutes 42 seconds left. But Manning calmly took the Giants down the field, highlighted by a breathtaking play in which he somehow wriggled free from a Patriots' pass rush and delivered a long pass to wide receiver David Tyree, who made a remarkable leaping catch in which he briefly trapped the ball between his hands and helmet. Goodell said Monday he thought the play would be remembered as one of the best in Super Bowl history. Peyton Manning had told Eli the same thing late Sunday night.
The game was as redemptive for Giants Coach Tom Coughlin as for his young quarterback. Coughlin's taskmaster ways had been subjected to scorn and ridicule in recent seasons, and his job security often had seemed tenuous -- particularly after an 0-2 start this season. But he lightened up a bit, and Saturday night he told his players how much he wanted them to experience winning a Super Bowl, which he had done as a Giants assistant coach.
"I wanted that for every one of them," Coughlin said Monday.
Up next for the Giants is a victory parade on Tuesday in New York.
And one assistant, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, will get a shot at a head coaching job, interviewing with the Washington Redskins later in the day on Tuesday.
While Manning and his teammates get some down time, Coughlin and Giants officials likely will apply the finishing touches to a contract extension that's believed to be for four years. His current deal runs through next season.
"I expect that some of this will happen in a short amount of time," Coughlin said when asked following Monday's news conference about negotiations.