Eli Manning saw Taylor Swift cheering on Travis Kelce during last week’s Kansas City Chiefs-Chicago Bears game. He has watched the commercials featuring Travis and Jason Kelce and occasionally their mom, Donna Kelce. He has heard the Kelce brothers’ popular podcast, New Heights. He is happy to see another pair of NFL brothers give him and Peyton Manning a run for their money as the league’s most popular siblings.
Well, to an extent.
“I think the Kelce brothers are doing a great job,” Eli told The Messenger’s The Beat this week. “I listen to their podcast and it’s a lot of fun. Both of them kind of ham-and-egg each other and go after each other and have different personalities. Both of them are funny. I hope both of them keep playing for a lot longer because I think when they’re both done and retired, they might steal Peyton and I’s job so I hope they keep playing for a while.”
Eli, who is 42 and retired from the New York Giants three years ago, has seamlessly transitioned into a post-football life. He watches the NFL and college football every weekend with his family and works Monday Night Football 10 times per year with his brother, Peyton, on their popular ManningCast show on ESPN2. He says he has never once thought about playing again. Not even when he was on the air watching Aaron Rodgers go down for the season at MetLife Stadium — just a short drive from Manning’s home in New Jersey — creating a giant hole at quarterback for the New York Jets.
Eli, who is younger than Tom Brady was when he won his last Super Bowl, and just a couple of years older than Rodgers, never contemplated coming back for one more Super Bowl run in New York?
“No, not at all,” he said. “I’ve been happy being retired. No one is trying to hit me. I wake up out of bed every Monday and I’m not sore. I’m not trying to fix what hurts. I don’t have to deal with the media analyzing the games. I’m happy being right here on my couch, calling games on Monday nights. I’m good with what I’m doing.”
One of the highlights of the ManningCast is watching Eli and Peyton needling each other during the game, with Eli taking particular pleasure in teasing Peyton about the way he eats.
The food element of the show has resulted in a partnership with King’s Hawaiian and a “Slider Sunday” ad campaign this football season featuring both Eli and Peyton.
“There’s no chewing or biting when Peyton is eating, it’s just straight swallowing,” Eli said. “I think I counted one time and his record is seven sliders in one minute with zero chewing going on. It’s like one whole slider is in his mouth and he’s going for the next one. He’s mixing things and there’s different combinations involved … It’s scary, impressive and frightening all at the same time.”
Eli and Peyton began doing the ManningCast two years ago, with Peyton working out of a warehouse near his home in Denver while Eli does it from his home in New Jersey
“It’s been awesome, it’s been so much fun,” Eli said. “I don’t get to see my brother all that often. He’s in Denver and I’m in New Jersey so this keeps us close. I get to see him on the screen but we talk a bunch during the week when we have the games and, in our preparation, and talking about different ideas and what we see from watching film and who we’re going to talk to and those conversations. It has been fun to work with him. We both have been around each other for years so we can set each other up for different stories and different analysis on the game and our insights into what’s going on. I look forward to every week when we get to do one.”
Peyton founded Omaha Productions, which produces the ManningCast, as well as Peyton’s Places and Eli’s Places and other documentary and interview series. It has enabled the brothers to collaborate on projects outside of football and work with other athletes and celebrities.
“Omaha is Peyton’s production company but I’ve been working with them since the beginning of it and have helped produce some of the other shows,” Eli said. “It’s been fun to have some insights and suggest things and not to just do what someone else wants to do. To know they’re going to use it the right way and have final say on some of the projects and other things we have going on. It’s been fun to get those creative juices going and come up with some fun ideas.”
The NFL spoke to the Manning brothers last year and worked with Omaha Productions in changing the annual Pro Bowl from a tackle football game into the reimagined Pro Bowl Games, which is now a flag football game and skills competitions. Eli and Peyton coached the NFC and AFC teams last year in Las Vegas and will return again this year when the event moves to Orlando. Eli and Peyton combined to play in 19 Pro Bowls in Hawaii, which is where the game was held from 1980-2015. Construction on a new Aloha Stadium in Honolulu is expected to begin next year and be completed by 2028. Could Eli see the Pro Bowl once again being held in its former home of Hawaii?
“I don’t know but it was great having the Pro Bowl in Hawaii,” Eli said. “It was a reward and a vacation for the players that got voted in. It was a great opportunity to go there and play in a game and have your family there and invite everybody to come out that helped you along the way to get to the NFL and earn a Pro Bowl. It was nice to thank them by bringing them along for this great time together in Hawaii. It will be in Orlando this year so it could still be fun for families. The game had turned to a point where it wasn’t super competitive. No one wanted to get hurt. No one wanted to tackle so we made it flag football and (a skills competition). Guys were more competitive and I think it was a good adjustment.”
As much as Eli loves football and working with his brother on the ManningCast and different projects, his focus these days is on raising his four children, Ava, Lucy, Caroline and Charlie, with his wife, Abby.
“We’ve tried to get them involved in a lot of activities and sports outside of school,” Eli said. “They’re busy and hopefully they can find something they’re truly passionate about. That’s how we were raised growing up. My dad thought you learned so many life lessons through sports and teamwork and dedication and commitment and dealing with loss and dealing with success and handling them both the same way. We have tried to put our kids in a lot of those situations where they learn about those things. It has been a lot of fun watching them on their journey.”
Manning laughs about being a “girl dad” and having three daughters before Charlie was born four years ago. After growing up in a household with two brothers, Manning has had to learn everything from brushing hair to picking out outfits for his daughters.
“I’ve learned girls take more time getting ready,” Eli said. “With the boy, it’s, ‘Here’s your gym shorts and here’s a T-shirt and maybe wear socks and if not, don’t worry about it.’ Put on your shoes and we’re out the door. We don’t have to brush our hair. With the girls, it takes a little more time with their hair. You have to learn how to do a ponytail or do a bun. So, I know how to do those things. I’ve mastered them. I’m really good at it. I can’t do the braids yet. That’s above my pay grade but I love learning about their personalities and what they’re into and supporting them in finding their passion.”