Peyton Manning used to wonder about his little brother. Eli was almost too easygoing, too loose when it came to football. The kid didn't like watching film the way his older brother did. He wasn't as inquisitive, either, and seldom seemed stressed. Friends called him Easy E.
Believe this: Nobody ever called Peyton Easy P.
"I could tell you every quarterback in the SEC for the last 20 years," Peyton once said. "We had to teach Eli the 12 teams in the SEC before he went to Ole Miss."
But Eli's cool-under-pressure personality, his tendency to never get too high or low, is serving him well now that he's starting to hit his stride as the second-year quarterback of the New York Giants.
Through seven games, he has 11 touchdown passes -- one more than Peyton -- and has been as calm as a Buddhist monk, especially in the early going, with five touchdowns and no interceptions in the first quarter.
Of course, just about everyone in New York is talking about Manning's spectacular finish last Sunday, when he capped a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback against Denver by driving his team 83 yards and throwing a two-yard touchdown pass with five seconds to play for a 24-23 victory.
Watching from second-row seats at that goal line were Archie and Olivia Manning, who held their breath as their youngest son dropped back, back, back before connecting with Amani Toomer.
"He just kept backpedaling," said Olivia, reliving the moment. "The only thing I could think was, 'What are you doing?' "
Archie, who had a TV camera directly in front of him, was maneuvering for a better view. As a former NFL quarterback, he understands the kind of pressure Eli was under to make a split-second decision, to find a hole in the defense and rocket a pass into it.
"It's hard to watch that," he said. "I know how tough it is."
The way Archie sees it, Eli has the ideal personality to play in New York "because, a) he doesn't have a big ego, and b) he doesn't read the papers or watch TV."
Now, a lot of people in San Diego might argue that Manning's ego is the reason he isn't playing for the Chargers. Manning embarrassed himself in the 2004 draft, when he threatened to go back to school if the team made him the No. 1 pick, then sulked when they did, refusing to put on a Charger cap when he was introduced. About an hour later, he was traded to the Giants.
That was the lowest point in his short NFL career, and Sunday's victory was the highest. True to form, though, he looked like the same sleepy-eyed kid in both situations. It's that sort of even keel that could lead to great success as a pro.
"There are still going to be some hiccup Sundays for him," Archie said. "But he's on schedule and steadily improving.... The worst thing that can happen to a young quarterback is he gets abused so bad [by the media and fans] that he can't play. But the second-worst thing that can happen is he'll win a big game and start thinking it's easy. Eli knows it's not."
And, trust Archie, his kid knows easy.
He's the poster boy for undersized players, but Miami linebacker Zach Thomas -- all 5 feet 11, 228 pounds of him -- leads the NFL in so-called impact tackles.
According to STATS LLC, which keeps track of such things, Thomas has a league-leading 28 1/2 tackles made for gains of two yards or less, including sacks. The next-closest players are Kansas City's Jared Allen with 21, and Pittsburgh's James Farrior with 20.
Oakland is in last place in the AFC West and has yet to win on the road. But the Raiders should be pleased with something: Their off-season acquisitions have worked out well: Ex-Viking Randy Moss has been explosive when healthy; ex-Jet LaMont Jordan ran for 122 yards in a victory over Buffalo on Sunday; and ex-Eagle Derrick Burgess already has seven sacks -- 1 1/2 fewer than his total from his last four seasons in Philadelphia.
After playing with one kicker for the last five seasons, the Eagles are on their fifth in five games. They claimed Jose Cortez on Monday, the same day he was released by Dallas.
You might recognize Cortez. He's the guy who was screamed at by Bill Parcells on Sunday after missing a 29-yard field-goal attempt in a 13-10 loss at Seattle. He's also the guy whose helmet was almost knocked off his head by irate guard Larry Allen after Cortez blew an extra-point try against San Francisco.
For the Eagles, Cortez is little more than a short-term fix. He kicks off better than Todd France, who made six consecutive field goals after his first try was blocked, and should be able to hold down the position until Pro Bowl kicker David Akers is healthy enough to return. Akers suffered a torn hamstring in his plant leg while kicking off against Oakland.