NFL notes: Eli's up, Peyton's down

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on the sidelines during a game against the Ravens in Baltimore,...

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on the sidelines during a game against the Ravens in Baltimore, Md., Dec. 11, 2011. (JOE GIZA/Reuters)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:09 PM ET

TORONTO - Eli Manning is sitting pretty, today, at the top of the quarterback class. Meantime, big brother is merely hoping he’ still in the class. Peyton Manning is now reported to be willing to sign a pay-as-you-go contract. Basically, he’s telling teams he’ll forget the money, forget the financial guarantees, forget the up-front bonuses if they’ll forget he might just turn out to be a pain in the neck. If the Colts decline to pay him his $28 million bonus and make him a free agent in March, sources indicate he’s willing to sign a deal with other teams that would pay him based on the number of games he starts. While Peyton appears to be knocking on doors, Eli is knocking them down. After out-playing Tom Brady in Super Bowl gut-check time Sunday, he no longer has to explain why he should be regarded as an elite quarterback. He has joined Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady as the only winners of multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. Teammate Brandon Jacobs called him the best quarterback in the league. “Now (Eli) has two titles,” Jacobs said, spittle flying from his mouth. “Drew Brees is a pretty good quarterback and he’s at home. Aaron Rodgers is a pretty good quarterback and he’s at home. Tom Brady is a good quarterback ... and Eli beat him twice. Ask Tom Brady if that means (something).” While Peyton isn’t in the equation anymore as the NFL’s best, a 2010 study of 99 players with neck injuries showed that 76% returned to the playing field. That includes quarterback Chris Weinke, who returned from similar surgery to win a Heisman, a national title at Florida State, and went on to a pro career. So, in Peytonville today, there is both hope and glory. GREAT HOODED COBRA And, so it is that Billy (Sweetcheeks) Belichick rides off into the sunset. Through Super Bowl week Belichick was all sweetness and light. The guy who invented the meaning of “taciturn” suddenly became Mr. Congeniality. Cracking wise, loquacious, even lowering himself to give real answers to questions from the peasant class — otherwise known as the media. Ya’ had to know that sooner or later he was going to stop acting like he’d moved into Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood. Well, he’s back to being Mr. Grumpy Pants. Everyone say, “Hallelujah!” Belichick’s recovery began with him blowing off NBC’s post-game interview. The official press conference began with a question about the Patriots giving up a safety to start the game. “It’s not my call,” sniffed the Great Hooded Cobra, providing all the incite of Paris Hilton with an idea. Did you let the Giants score? Belichick: “Right.” Geez, thanks Bill. That’s one word: only 749 more and we’ve got a whole column. Anyway, what plays could have been better? “There was 100 plays you could be talking about and I would take a lot of them,” Belichick told reporters, which just goes to show he had as many answers for the media, as the Pats’ secondary did for Manningham. But, it’s nice to see he’s feeling himself again. People were getting worried. PUBLICITY STUNT Another Super Bowl. Another (ho-hum) apology from the NFL. This time the league is apologizing for another entertainer who can’t play nice. British singer M.I.A. extended her middle finger to 110 million viewers during the Super Bowl halftime show and appeared to sing, “I don’t give a (expletive)” at one point, though it was difficult to hear her clearly. “The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing and we apologize to our fans,” said Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, which produced Madonna’s halftime show. McCarthy said that M.I.A. had not done anything similar during rehearsals and the league had no reason to believe she would make the risque gesture during the halftime. On the upside, unlike Janet Jackson in 2004, she didn’t fall out of her clothes. No word on why M.I.A would do such a thing, but any potential publicity it will generate for her is not one of the reasons. Honest — and, oh, look a pig just flew past the office window ...

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