I'm not sure exactly why the Manning brothers' Monday Night Football telecast worked so well. Peyton and Eli weren't even wearing yellow blazers! A fire alarm went off at one point. And when they had Russell Wilson on as a guest in the fourth quarter, Peyton wouldn't let him get a word in edgewise.
But they did work. There probably is some big reason for that, for why we're ready for a show like this now. There just was this feeling that you weren't being talked to, but instead were in on the whole thing with them.
They told funny stories, poked fun at each other, explained what was going on, and best of all, they gave great insight into what a quarterback is thinking during a game. Who knew that quarterbacks were so nerdy?
"Ray," Eli asked guest Ray Lewis, "would you want one of (Peyton's) helmets filled with quarters or $10,000 in cash? Which would be worth more?"
Eli liked to poke fun at the size of Peyton's forehead.
ESPN2 is going to give us 10 weeks of Peyton and Eli doing an alternative MNF broadcast. Next week is Detroit at Green Bay, and neither of them will be brutally honest about the brutal play of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
For yesterday's Baltimore-Las Vegas game, they had guests Charles Barkley, Travis Kelce, Lewis, and Wilson along the way. And there is no doubt that they should be in the main booth doing the game on ABC.
What worked for the Mannings was when they stopped trying so hard and became a cross between Beavis and Butthead and the two old Muppet guys sitting in the theater box.
Turns out, Peyton is just like he is in those Nationwide commercials with Brad Paisley, where he shows off massive Peytonville and all the tiny doll people in the city have backstories. He's just that nerdy.
"Onsides kick, onsides kick, onsides kick!" Peyton yelled in the final seconds before overtime. The Raiders beat Baltimore 33-27, and the Mannings really didn't explain the narrative about how Lamar Jackson's fumbles did the Ravens in.
"What would you do if it's third down and all of a sudden Gruden calls a play you don't like?" Eli asked Peyton at one point.
Peyton started waving his arms, "'I'm gonna call my own play. I'm gonna call my own play. I can't hear you.'"
The trick, Peyton said, is to blame it on technical problems with what he's hearing in the headset. But the backups have to go along with it and not tell the coaches that they could hear the call fine:
"Everyone has to buy in," Peyton said. "You cannot sell your starting quarterback out."
For sure, they got off to a rough start. Peyton was talking too much. When they stopped performing, they became way more entertaining. It started hokey when Peyton did a little skit where he was drawing things up on the whiteboard.
Peyton kept smirking and shaking his head all night, or yelling "horrible call" when he didn't agree with the officials. He told one story about how he cursed out an official and felt so guilty about it that he asked the league for the official's home address so he could write him an apology note.
The league wouldn't give him the address. Peyton said they must have been afraid he was going to egg the official's home.
We got to find out how deeply quarterbacks hate crowd noise. When the Raiders, the home team, failed to pick up a first down on fourth and short, because the Baltimore defense broke through the line, Peyton jumped in:
"That's crowd-noise penetration. The offensive line is not getting off on the snap because they can't freaking hear … Drink your beer, quiet down, and let (Derek) Carr play quarterback."
Eli said this about Peyton: "He had that stadium trained. The fans would get fined if they talked while the Colts were on offense. If a guy was trying to order a beer, everyone would tell him to quiet down until the defense was on the field."
I'd call this a new model for broadcasting games, or even for sports talk shows. No one was yelling at me. No one was pretending anything at all. These guys were genuine, having a running conversation for more than three hours.
But I'd be afraid to see others pretending to be genuine.
My favorite line of the night was when Lewis was the guest and Eli talked to him about what it was like being a young quarterback facing him:
"I get up there and I'm saying, 'No. 52's the mike.' You were like, 'I'm not the mike, he's the mike.' I said, 'Wait, Ray's right. The other guy is the mike.' Then Ed Reed starts saying 'Hey, I want to be the mike.'"
They messed with Eli's head, and it worked that day."I had a 0.0 (passer) rating," he said. "That's hard to do."