INDIANAPOLIS—Mere minutes after Super Bowl XLVI MVP Eli Manning hoisted the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, he was congratulated in the locker room by his older brother, injury-ridden four-time NFL MVP Peyton, whose sadness at missing an entire season seemed to evaporate as he proudly grasped his younger brother by the shoulders and said, "Man, this has been without a doubt the worst year of my life."
"I can hardly believe this is happening to me," added Peyton, beaming with unguarded joy and apparently beside himself with happiness for all his brother had achieved. "I can't believe you won a Super Bowl in my home stadium the year I didn't play at all. Now you have twice as many rings as I do and twice as many Super Bowl MVP awards. How? How is that even possible?"
Peyton made a point of singling out his junior sibling amidst the chaos of celebrating players, throngs of reporters, and general postgame mayhem in order to tell Eli exactly how special the moment was for him, saying, "I may never recover from how monumentally terrible I feel right now."
"To see you succeed on the biggest stage of all, to win the biggest game and receive its highest honor twice, is like a knife in my gut," gushed the ecstatic elder Manning as flashbulbs and champagne corks popped around them. "Remember this moment forever—the moment you made me an irrelevant footnote. I'll certainly never forget it."
Peyton noted that Eli started the game remarkably strong, completing a Super Bowl–record nine consecutive passes, and finished even stronger with his pinpoint 38-yard pass into the hands of a well-covered Mario Manningham on the final drive, a performance Peyton said puts Eli squarely in the category of top quarterbacks "where, until this very moment, I thought I belonged."
"You've really done it this time," the injury-plagued 37-year-old Peyton told his little brother, noting that Eli's Super Bowl win may mark his own last appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium. "You've turned me back into Dan Marino. No one was saying it before, but now that you're a two-time winner, they'll be saying it again in no time. I hope you're happy, Eli. I really do. I can barely move my head."
With his victory Sunday, Eli Manning became one of five quarterbacks, including Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, with multiple Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards. Peyton Manning's most notable achievements include being the quarterback to most quickly reach 4,000 completions and 50,000 yards, breaking records originally set by Dan Marino.
Peyton responded with enthusiastic affirmatives when asked if Eli had finally reached the elite level by beating Belichick's dynastic Patriots twice, saying, "Hey, the Bears defense I faced in that Super Bowl was pretty good," and that when history looks back on Eli's amazing accomplishment, they should note that "my brother had a great defense backing him up. All I had was Dwight Freeney."
And when asked by Indianapolis Star reporter Mike Chappell which of the three Manning quarterbacks was the all-time best, Peyton clapped his brother warmly on the back, winked, and said, "We'll see. I'm not done yet, and neither is Eli."
Peyton then struck Chappell in the mouth, knocking out two teeth.