Eli Manning Talks Tom Brady, His Famous Pranks, Family Legacy, and More

We recently had the opportunity to chop it up with Eli and Archie Manning about the Manning family legacy, the Super Bowl, beating Tom Brady twice, and more.

Eli Manning

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Eli Manning

Eli and Archie Manning know all about being in the spotlight. That's what happens when you're part of the most famous quarterback family we've ever seen. So starring in a commercial that airs during the Super Bowl is really nothing out of the ordinary for these guys. But in this very out of the ordinary year, the chance to film one together as a family was a great way to reunite for the Mannings.

With Eli now retired, he has all kinds of time on his hands to film as many commercials as he likes, but with it being Super Bowl week, and Tom Brady playing in the game, you already know that the conversation is going to go back to—Eli and his 2-0 record in the big game against Brady. That's the legend of Eli and it's only grown over the years, especially with Brady still playing. We were able to catch up with Eli and Archie to talk about their new Frito-Lay spot, the development of Arch Manning, Eli's life post-retirement, pranking his wife, and much more. 

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.) 

What does it mean for you guys to get to be in a commercial like this with the family and everyone back together? 
AM: Well, I was really excited about it. Through the years, Zach, we've done some things together, but it's been a little while. And, actually during the pandemic, I hadn't seen much of these guys. We're all kind of spread out around the country. So we all united there to be with them in LA, do the commercial. I mean, Super Bowl and Frito-Lay, I mean, that goes together so. And then I saw the other commercials they're doing, kind of the whole theme and concept and the other people that are involved in it. I was honored. And so we had a lot of fun doing this. We love kind of the theme of the commercial. We had a lot of laughs. We were careful, which we had to be, and everybody has to be at this time. But it just worked out, it worked out great. And it was a lot of fun for me.

Eli, there's a scene in the commerical where you and Peyton are throwing footballs at each other. I'm sure that brought back some memories. How did you convince Peyton to let you be the one to break the wall with your throws? 
AM: It's being the baby [laughs]. 

EM: I guess I threw a better one into the wall than his. His were a little wobbly so they weren't going, he couldn't throw a spiral, so they weren't getting stuck in the wall that well [laughs]. But just kind of playing a classic game of burnout is really what we're playing. Just kind of throw it as hard as you can at the other person. The first person to drop it, loses it. We played that a bunch growing up as kids and as adults. When they asked us, "Can you do that?" It's pretty easy to pick that right up. We didn't have to do any acting and kind of talking trash to each other, just the normal stuff we did as kids. And, yeah, I hadn't had a scolding from my dad in a while, so it was kind of good to get that again. "Hey. Go to bed. Be quiet." It's been a while since that happened. 

AM: It was long overdue.

EM: It was good to hear. It brought back some good memories.

Archie, that had to bring back memories for you. 
AM: Absolutely. It was a little bit different. Eli was the baby and their older brother Cooper was two years older than Peyton. It seemed like they fought a lot. And then as Eli got a little older, I mean, they really...the things they did to him [laughs]. It really wasn't right. So that absolutely brought back some memories that, I mean, the exact thing. But as they got older and teenagers and so forth, I would tell them to go to bed. So I didn't have to act either. It was natural.

Eli, it looked like a lot of fun being on set and all that. 
Anytime you can do something with your dad and your brother and be in a commercial, it makes it a lot of fun. You don't have to stick to the script so you can kind of improvise and just be natural. And especially with this, you get to be in your pajamas. You're very comfortable in the deal. But also getting teamed up and the other people in the commercial. You throw in Troy Aikman and [Joe] Montana and Jerry Rice and Jerome Bettis and [Roger] Staubach and Deion Sanders. Twenty-two Super Bowl rings between the crew there. So, it's pretty awesome to be at that.

Eli and Peyton Manning

Throw in Marshawn Lynch. I always wish, since I saw the first twas the night before kickoff commercial, I was like, "I want Marshawn Lynch to read me a bedtime story." I would love that. Now I kind of get it. He's reading me twas the night before the Super Bowl. And then when you team up with the brand that you are used to. We grew up with Frito-Lay and Doritos and Tostitos and Lays chips. Still eat a bunch of Lays chips. So we kind of get to team up with a brand that it's kind of part of the family, part of a Super Bowl tradition. I think it makes it very special.

Eli, we've done a lot with Victor Cruz at Complex and he always talked about how much of a prankster you were. Are you still pulling pranks in retirement?
EM: Yeah. I've learned that my teammates were better at receiving the pranks than my wife. She does not take them as well. So kind of the fake snake kind of by the doorstep right out the door, she doesn't like that that much. So my six year old, she tattles on me very quickly. She's quick to tell mom, if I do a prank on her, she tells on me right away and I'm in trouble. And so I miss the locker room and those guys.

The best part of being a good prankster is they don't really know it's you. They might think it's you, but kind of just being the quiet guy, keeping kind of that deadpan no expression on your face as they're looking at their phone and it's in a different language. So always I have a lot of ideas brewing. I'm kind of waiting for my comeback or whatever field I am for some new pranks. I'm kind of trying some things out on myself, which is a little different. I'm pranking myself right now. But I just got to kind of stay fresh. I don't want to get stale on some of my ideas.

How are you enjoying retirement overall? You've really been showing the public a lot of your personality that we hadn't really seen before. 
EM: Yeah. No. I am. I think when I was playing, I always wanted to keep kind of my personal life completely off limits. And I guess wanted people to think all I did was football and that's all I cared about. And for a lot of cases, that kind of was it. I had my family life and my football life, and I never wanted to kind of combine those two. It was kind of two separate entities. And now I just kind of have family life, but just kind of be more willing to let the world see kind of the lighter side of my personality. And so when things come up, we'll post a few things and see where it goes. So just kind of dabbling. I haven't gone all in on everything and revealing everything, but I am having fun with it. And trying to just keep everything light and just kind of nonsense and funny.

Archie, with Arch Manning coming up, how has his recruitment and all that been different for you guys to watch than Eli and Peyton's with social media and everything?
AM: It's so different, Zach. I can remember Peyton, it was pretty much his senior year before he started hearing from anyone. In the case of Peyton and then Eli five years later, it was pretty much their junior year, maybe the summer before. But during that time that you kind of hear from some colleges. But now it seem like the colleges in their recruiting philosophy has changed somewhat.

Then you throw in social media with it. It's just a different world out there. I will say Cooper's philosophy and kind of the family's philosophy is for Arch, when he started his freshman year, to let him be a freshman. They kind of kept some things, interviews and didn't really hear from the coaches. And it's worked well. His coach has been good about it. High school football is so pure and it needs to be fun. And I can honestly say he and his teammates are having fun. Now he's finished his sophomore year. And you change a little bit. And he's talking with some coaches during this time a year. So it's fun. You just don't want to put all this pressure on someone and let him kind of enjoy the journey.

Eli, Tom Brady's in the Super Bowl. So everybody's going to talk about you because you got two on him. How does it make you feel that you'll forever be mentioned whenever Brady is brought up? 
EM: Yeah. I mean, I guess it's an honor. I mean, I wish it was maybe the other way around. I was in more Super Bowls and they were talking about maybe someone else. But I guess I'll take what I can get. I guess it's a positive thing. They're saying good things about me and that we were able to beat the Patriots when we played them.

But I think it's one of those things at the time when it happens, you don't think about it. You're thinking about what it means for myself and personally to win a championship. What it means for my family and the New York Giants and the fans and the players and the owners. And it's not about beating someone else. It's about what we were able to accomplish as a team. And that's the special part about it. But I guess as you get older and Tom keeps going to more Super Bowls and winning more Super Bowls, it does kind of be like, "Well, it is kind of special what we were able to accomplish." And it didn't happen that often to be able to beat him and his teams in a Super Bowl.

Eli, I have a close friend who is a huge Giants fans and he'd kill me if I didn't ask you where the Hakeem Nicks play against the Packers ranks for the top plays of your career. 
EM: Yeah. I mean, that was a huge play right before halftime. The play before, we were probably just trying to run the clock out and we threw a little toss to Ahmad Bradshaw, and he kind of wiggles around and gets 25 yards and out of bounds. And now it's like, "Hey, let's take one shot." And I think that was just a momentum killer kind of for them. I mean, right before half, it's kind of close and also we get a touchdown and get a little separation on a Hail Mary. So also we're going in the locker room just fired up and ready to go. Green Bay was so good that year. And all of a sudden they're kind of down for the first time and a little shell-shocked, saying "What is happening?" And we got all the momentum going in the second half.

So it's definitely one of the great kind of almost the original helmet. I mean, he kind of had it off the helmet as well. That's what gave us the ideas for the Super Bowl, say "Hey, you know..." Or I guess it was vice versa a little later. But after [David] Tyree, it's like we got to have some sort of helmet catch for us to win a championship. That's the only way we could do it. 

How do you guys see this year's Super Bowl going? 
I think it's a great storyline with Tom Brady and changing teams after 20 years and going to Tampa and still getting the same results and going to a Super Bowl is unbelievable. They're playing great football, but it's also with the Chiefs. And they've been the favorite all year, the best team in the league and they're back. And I think, Mahomes and Brady, they both have that kind of special it quality that no matter what the circumstances of the game, what's going on, they're going to find a way to will their team back into the mix and make it a tight game and make those plays and critical moments of the game. And so I think there will be some scoring involved and it just kind of come down...I think the fourth-quarter is going to be back and forth and both offenses hot, and just a matter of who kind of gets the ball last to win the game.

AM: I'm kind of the same way, Zach. It's throwing the ball and spreading things out and getting the ball down field in the end zone. That's kind of the trend right now in football and in pro football. And two great quarterbacks, great coaching staffs, great game plans. I thought the other day there was some just super calls in the game, especially by the Bucs at critical times. And some different type of plays. Kind of the double screen pass back to [Rob] Gronk[owski] on third. I thought that won the game right there. That was really...I've always thought that's really smart to save something new, something they've never seen before, maybe you hadn't had it in your plan for five or six weeks, for a crucial play in the game. So, hey, two weeks to prepare for these two coaches and those offensive staffs, they're going to move the ball. They're going to move the ball and the quarterbacks are great and the receivers are really good. So I agree with Eli. Should create a lot of excitement. I think it'll be a wonderful, wonderful Super Bowl.

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