In Friday’s column about Giants quarterback Eli Manning, I suggest that he and brother Peyton will, by the end of their careers, be considered “the best brother act in NFL history.” Not that they don’t have plenty of competition for that distinction. Here’s one man’s Fraternal Top 10 – and where the Mannings might rank at the moment:
1. TE Shannon Sharpe (1990-2003, Broncos/Ravens) and WR Sterling Sharpe (1988-94 Packers): Shannon is a Hall of Fame tight end. ’Nuff said. Sterling, meanwhile, would have been a Hall of Famer if a neck injury hadn’t cut short his career. In his last three seasons, he averaged 105 catches, 1,285 yards and 14 touchdowns.
2. OG Bruce Matthews (1983-2001, Oilers/Titans) and LB Clay Matthews (1978-96, Browns/Falcons): These two guys played forever – 19 years apiece, 38 total. Only special players have that kind of longevity. Bruce went into the Hall in his first year of eligibility. Clay probably won’t make it, but he did go to four Pro Bowls. (And his son, Clay III, is an absolute stud linebacker for the Packers.)
3. CB Ronde Barber (1997-2011, Bucs) and RB Tiki Barber (1997-2006, Giants): Ronde’s 43 interceptions and 11 defensive touchdowns – along with five Pro Bowls – give him a shot at Canton. As for Tiki, he was a ground-gaining machine in his final five seasons, averaging 2,055 yards from scrimmage. Who knows? He might still find a way into the Hall, even though he retired at 31 to go into television.
4. QB Peyton Manning (1998-2011, Colts) and QB Eli Manning (2004-11, Giants): Peyton and the Patriots’ Tom Brady are the Leno and Letterman of their generation. It’s just a matter of who you prefer. Eli has won a Super Bowl and been voted to the Pro Bowl (once), but his body of work isn’t substantial enough for the Mannings to be higher on this list – yet.
5. HB-K Jack Manders (1933-40, Bears) and FB Pug Manders (1939-45, Brooklyn/Boston): “Automatic Jack,” as he was called, was one of pro football’s first great kickers, in addition to being a fine two-way player for George Halas’ Monsters of the Midway. Pug led the NFL in rushing in 1941 and finished in the top 6 two other times. Hall of Famer/raconteur Jimmy Conzelman once said of him: “I played pro football against both [Ernie] Nevers and [Bronko] Nagurski and know what both can do. They haven’t a thing on Pug Manders.”
6. LB Walt Michaels (1951-63, Packers/Browns/Jets) and DE-K Lou Michaels (1958-71, Rams/Steelers/Colts/Packers): Walt played on two championship teams with the Browns and was a five-time Pro Bowler. (He also later coached the Jets.) The strong-footed Lou booted 26 field goals in 1962 to set a league record and, in his spare time, put his bulk (6-2, 243) to work on defense. As an added bonus, he nearly got in a fight with the Jets’ Joe Namath in a Miami nightclub before Super Bowl III.
7. The Nesser Brothers: There were six who played for the Columbus Panhandles in the 1920s (and before), but the best were Ted (1920-21) and Al (1920-31, mostly with the Akron Pros). Longtime NFL commissioner Joe Carr, who founded the Panhandles, claimed Ted was “probably the best defensive player the [early] game has known” – a 5-10, 230-pound dynamo capable of lining up anywhere. Al was a legendarily tough guard who boxed on the side and was the last player to play without a helmet or shoulder pads.
8. DT William Perry (1985-94, Bears/Eagles) and DT Michael Dean Perry (1988-97, Browns/Broncos/Chiefs): Extra-large William – The Fridge – became a national sensation as a rookie with the ’85 champion Bears. He even ran for a touchdown in the Super Bowl as a running back. Alas, his prodigious appetite kept him from becoming the dominant player that coach Mike Ditka thought he could be. Michael Dean had a more productive career: 6 Pro Bowls, two all-pro teams.
9. QB Randall Cunningham (1985-2001, Eagles/Vikings/Cowboys/Ravens) and FB Sam Cunningham (1973-82, Patriots): Randall was a terrific athlete who threw 34 touchdown passes one season (1998), rushed for 942 yards another (1990) and could even punt (career long: 91 yards). Who knows what he could have accomplished in Philadelphia if he’d had a better supporting cast? Sam rushed for over 5,000 yards for the Pats behind the blocking of Hall of Fame guard John Hannah and was picked for the Pro Bowl in 1978.
10. CB Miller Farr (1965-73, Chargers/Broncos/Oilers/Cardinals/Lions) and RB Mel Farr (1967-73, Lions): Miller led the AFL in interceptions in 1967 and played in three All-Star Games. Mel, a talented back who could run and catch, made a pair of Pro Bowls before injuries took their toll. Here’s my favorite factoid about them, though: Miller holds the modern record for INTs in a tie game (three in a 28-28 deadlock with the Jets in ’67), and Mel holds the modern record for rushing yards in a tie game (197 in a 10-10 standoff with the Vikings, also in ’67). You can’t make this stuff up.