- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

Serious expectations are attached to a quarterback whose last name is Manning.

The father was a No.2 choice in the NFL Draft and started for 10 years in the league. The older brother was a No.1 pick and now is the game’s best quarterback.

The latest Manning was an All-American and a No.1 selection in his own right, raising the bar of expectations to ridiculous heights.

And when a fellow rookie who was drafted after you is unbeaten and ranks among the game’s top-rated passers, comparisons are inevitable.

After two starts, Eli Manning of the New York Giants isn’t at the level of dad Archie, brother Peyton or Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Ben Roethlisberger. Instead, he’s doing a fine impression of Heath Shuler and other befuddled rookie quarterbacks of the past.

Manning’s honeymoon in the city that never stops carping is over. He has thrown one touchdown pass and four interceptions — and posted two losses — since he replaced unproductive veteran Kurt Warner.

New Yorkers embraced Manning after he forced the San Diego Chargers to trade his rights to the Giants on draft day. But the notoriously tough Giants fans treated him to boos during Sunday’s 27-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles that dropped their New York to 5-6.

“I knew coming here that the fans are going to be rough if you’re not playing good football,” Manning said. “I’m preparing hard and doing my best, and that’s all I can worry about.”

Manning knows much is expected of him because of his surname, but he also knows from family history that NFL success doesn’t come easy. His father never played for a winning team in New Orleans, Houston and Minnesota, and his more highly lauded brother threw six interceptions and only two touchdowns in his first two starts.

“Having two people in my family who’ve gone through the same situation and had tough times, having their support has helped out,” Manning said. “I don’t worry about not living up to my brother or my father or to the expectations.”

The Washington Redskins’ second-ranked defense figures to have some fun with Manning, the third neophyte quarterback it has faced in four weeks, on Sunday at FedEx Field.

“You’re not the first pick in the draft if you don’t have a lot of talent, but I lick my chops when I see a young guy like that because he’s still learning,” left end Renaldo Wynn said.

However, Redskins defensive line coach Greg Blache isn’t so cocky. Blache was an assistant with the Indianapolis Colts when Peyton Manning was a turnover-plagued rookie on a team that finished 3-13 in 1998.

“Eli comes from a football family, so he’s different than most rookies in that he really understands the game,” Blache said. “You’re not going to rattle him.”

Apparently, not even Tom Coughlin, the Captain Queeg of NFL head coaches, can do that.

Coughlin let his 23-year-old quarterback hear it Sunday after an attempted throwaway under pressure in a tight game turned into an ugly interception that led to an Eagles field goal.

“It’s part of his coaching style,” Manning said. “He’s intense. It’s something you just have to deal with.”

And Coughlin, like most NFL observers, believes Manning will be just fine despite his rough beginning.

“I like everything about the kid,” Coughlin said. “He’s sharp. He works hard. He studies. He pays attention to detail. He has a good grasp of what we’re trying to do. He’s got an outstanding arm. The players like him. He does a nice job in the huddle. He’s a competitive kid, and he gets disappointed when his play isn’t good enough.”

For now, Manning seems more realistic than disappointed that Roethlisberger is the toast of Pittsburgh while he is hearing catcalls.

“I’m not jealous,” Manning said. “He’s figured out a way to win. I’ve got to start doing the same. It’s a learning process. I have to get a lot better. I have to make better decisions. I can’t turn the ball over. The more experience I get, the better things will get.”

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