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Eli Manning: I Was Not Criticizing Russell Wilson On ‘ManningCast’

  • Manning said he was joking about paying the punter “$235 million instead of Russell.”
  • Two-time Super Bowl MVP thriving in media career, embracing fantasy football in retirement.
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Eli Manning is thriving in his post-NFL media career, appearing on ESPN’s popular “ManningCast” with older brother Peyton and going undercover as “Chad Powers” for his own “Eli’s Places” show.

With Omaha Productions’ “Monday Night Football” alternative telecast now in its second season, the Manning brothers are getting more comfortable zinging players and teams.

Two weeks ago, a clip of a frustrated Petyon Manning furiously calling 62 times for a timeout while Denver Broncos coaches dithered went viral.

On Monday, Eli Manning made headlines when he seemed to dunk on underperforming Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson during the Dallas Cowboys’ 23-16 win over the New York Giants.  

While Wilson’s offense struggled to score points in an ugly 11-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, Broncos punter Corliss Waitman emerged as the star of the game, booming 10 punts for 476 yards. 

With ex-punter Pat McAfee looking on, Manning quipped, “They should have paid that punter $235 million instead of Russell.”

(Manning was referring to Wilson’s five-year, $245 million Broncos extension).

On Tuesday, Manning told Front Office Sports he was not trying to rip Wilson, who’s thrown only two touchdown passes this season while leading the Broncos to a 2-1 record. But things happen on live TV. ESPN’s cameras caught him flipping a double-bird last season.

“No, I don’t think we’re trying to be critical. I think we always try to support the guys that are in the game. I think sometimes, ‘Hey, it’s live TV.’ I never try to take a real shot at somebody. I think that was obviously a very outrageous joke — because a punter had 10 punts. Nothing against Russell. He’s going to do great,” said the two-time Super Bowl MVP with the Giants.

Despite taking the Seattle Seahawks to two Super Bowls, it will take time for Wilson to adjust to Denver after 10 seasons in the Pacific Northwest, Manning added.

“It’s hard going into a new offense, a new system. It takes some time. It’s not going to be perfect after three weeks. I’ve been in that situation. It can take five or six weeks before you get comfortable with the coaches. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s all the players coming together, learning a new offense and getting together and getting on the same page. 

“So I know he’s going to turn it around. He’s a tremendous player-athlete. So never want to try to take a shot. Or put anybody down. Obviously, it was just a ridiculous idea of paying a punter that much. I think we try to support the quarterbacks that are in the game. We know how hard it is to be in that situation. Obviously, sometimes we get emotionally involved. You root for guys. So you react. Or you’re rooting for a team. If they’re not doing something you think they should be doing, the thoughts and the opinions come out a little bit.”

The 41-year-old was making the media rounds Tuesday touting the partnership between the ESPN Fantasy Football app and IBM.

Like many ex-players, Manning has embraced fantasy football in his retirement. He now has two ESPN Fantasy Football teams — including one he co-manages with his 11-year-old daughter, who is quick to suggest trades and player pickups. 

This season marks the sixth season of the IBM-ESPN fantasy partnership. Under the deal, IBM and ESPN use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze fantasy football data produced during the season. 

IBM says it delivered more than 34 billion AI-powered insights to fantasy players last season. The data generated by tools like “Trade Analyzer with Watson” helps team owners weigh potential deals. 

Manning admits he was terrible at fantasy football his first season. He drafted former teammates for fun. He didn’t have a plan.

Now he’s relying on data.

“It’s fun. I’m more into it than I thought I would be,” said Manning.

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