Monday Night Football made its 2021 debut this week, but one of the longest running programs in television history gave this season a twist. The regular telecast on the Worldwide Leader in Sports featured Steve Levy at play-by-play with Louis Riddick and Brian Griese as its color commentators. Joining them as sideline reporters are Lisa Salters and John Parry. This year, though, ESPN has blessed the viewing audience with an alternate feed. On ESPN 2, it was the premiere of MNF with Peyton and Eli. That’s right: it’s a new experiment in broadcast television with former football players – and brothers Peyton and Eli Manning – explaining everything as it happens. So, how did the Brothers Manning do in their inaugural broadcast?
The Brand Name
As for the name itself, it’s… kinda blasé. MNF with Peyton and Eli is a little boring, but it’s straight forward and cuts to the quick. It’s Monday Night Football and you’re watching it with Peyton and Eli Manning. If it were up to me, I would have named it something snazzier (see tweet below).
I really think ESPN could have come up with a better for the alternate MNF feed than “Peyton and Eli.”— Ryan McCarthy 🎙💻🎥📸 (@WhoIsRyanMcC) September 14, 2021
I would’ve gone with “Manning 2 Manning: A MNF Experience.” Or, “Whichever Brother’s MNF Pick Loses Gets Grounded by Archie.” #MNFxESPN #nfltwitter
(Yes, ESPN, I AM for hire.)
Shots Fired – At Themselves
Almost immediately after the broadcast began, the Brothers Manning reminisced about the last time they watched a game of Monday Night Football together. Peyton reckoned that it was in December of 1993, and he was a senior in high school. Eli, at the time, was in the seventh grade. They each made self-deprecating jokes about each other’s awkward teenage years. Peyton made jokes about his back-ne (that’s acne on his back for the unhip) and Eli talked about his braces. They roasted each other for each other’s flaws like all good brothers do prior to kickoff.
During Las Vegas’ initial drive, we had the first costume change in MNF with Peyton and Eli history. Peyton donned a Raiders visor and a headset and did his best Jon Gruden impression. I could’ve used a red wig a la Chuckie from Child’s Play. It looked like this kid already did that…
Ok then pic.twitter.com/hMd45ZTvbg— Stadium (@Stadium) September 14, 2021
On the Baltimore Ravens’ opening drive – which resulted in a touchdown – Peyton donned a Ravens helmet. This was probably the funniest moment of the night so far as the helmet CLEARLY did not fit Peyton and Eli ROASTED Peyton.
“Shocking that a helmet doesn’t fit YOU! They didn’t have a double XL helmet for THAT forehead?!?”Eli Manning
(Peyton later went on to say that Riddell now makes custom fitted helmets for players with heads as large as his. They couldn’t get him one for the broadcast?!?)
They Got Stories
During the inaugural MNF with Peyton and Eli telecast, both brothers shared stories of their career. With approximately seven minutes left in the first quarter, Peyton revealed that he went in and threw for the San Francisco 49ers. He then told a story about how Duke football head coach David Cutfliffe’s wife offered him, Greg Roman, and Jim Harbaugh a sandwich. Missed in all of this was revelation was that Peyton almost became a Niner (he finished his career with the Denver Broncos). The brothers continued to share various stories throughout the telecast.
They Got Guests
Throughout the night, MNF with Peyton and Eli rotated former and current athletes as their guests towards the end of each quarter. In the first quarter, Charles Barkley – a Raiders fan – was their first guest and talked everything from his golf game to being booed in Philadelphia. In the second quarter, it was Ravens great Ray Lewis. The trio talked about Lewis’ games against both Mannings and his friendship with Lamar Jackson. The second half saw two current players. In the third quarter, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was their guest… and cussed on live television. In the fourth quarter, the Mannings welcomed in Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson stayed all the way through overtime and watched Derek Carr throw the game-winning touchdown pass to Zay Jones.
Overall, MNF with Peyton and Eli was a fun and refreshing broadcast. Peyton is clearly the goofier and more outgoing of the two brothers. Eli is a little drier and analytical, but gets a good one-liner every so often at Peyton’s expense. The plan is to have the brothers on every Monday night for the next three seasons on ESPN 2, so get ready for more antics and fun stories.
And for the love of everything, please, PLEASE let us have a telecast of the Tennessee/Ole Miss game on October 14th with the Mannings.