It’s never a pleasant thing for a father to watch one of his sons struggle in life. This is doubly so if the son is a grown man, and double on top of that if what’s happening is in the public eye.
Tom Brady Sr. knows a thing or two about that, having watched his son struggle twice against Archie Manning’s younger son in the Super Bowl.
With Eli Manning hitting the bench for the first time in 210 weeks for Giants on Sunday, Brady the Elder reached out to Archie, whose family has been going through an emotional time.
Manning summed up the email he received from Brady to ESPN:
“He wrote me a beautiful message about what Eli has meant to the Giants and to the league. His email summed up the way Eli has carried himself during all of his years with the Giants and how that type of thing is important in our league at a time when maybe some of those things are breaking down.
“It was very meaningful to us.”
When Geno Smith took the field Sunday, he was the first Giants starter at quarterback not named Eli since Kurt Warner started New York’s 17-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals way back on Nov. 14, 2004. That was the week after George W. Bush won his second term as president, less than a month after the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918, and mere weeks into the first season Kobe Bryant played in his post-Shaq quest for glory on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Needless to say, that’s an eternity in sports terms.
Archie spoke of his relationship with the Brady family, saying, “We really met just one time at the Super Bowl in San Francisco, where we finally sat down and had a cup of coffee together. … Tom [Sr.] is a very nice man, a real gentleman. Peyton and Tom [Jr.] have had a special relationship. They don’t go off and vacation together, but they’ve been together at different things through the years, and they have a lot of respect for each other.”
John Stafford, father of Lions quarterback Matt, also had kind words for the Manning family:
“John and Tom [Sr.] can put themselves in my place,” Manning said, “as a daddy going through the ups and downs of a son playing quarterback.”
It was part of a massive nationwide outpouring after Eli’s benching, not just in support of him and his family but also in opposition to the Giants’ decision.
After all, plenty of New York legends will be wearing Eli’s jersey at the Giants’ next home game in solidarity with the embattled signal-caller.
And a few years down the line, if the Giants are still struggling to find a direction for the franchise in the post-Eli era, there will be a little extra significance if Manning puts on that golden jacket at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton.
Watching a son grow up is a reminder to any man that the next generation is ready to carry the torch; for Archie Manning, the careers of Peyton and Eli stood as surpassing an impressive legacy that started in New Orleans in the 1970s when Archie was the one throwing the pigskin.
But to watch sons fade and surrender to Father Time? That’s a whole different set of emotions.
It seems fitting that all this happens just as Peyton is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this week; Archie and his wife, Olivia, were in New York preparing to attend that ceremony Tuesday night.
As for the Giants, well, it looks like the ultimate support of Manning may come from the New York front office; ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter are both saying that the firing of Giants coach Ben McAdoo could come as early as Monday.
When that happens, McAdoo probably won’t get the same level of love from the NFL’s great big family of fathers and sons.
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