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Peyton and Eli Manning: The quarterbacks you wish you could clone

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It's almost too cruel a reality for Washington football fans to bear: two franchise and potential Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the same family.

Who will go down with the better legacy: Peyton or Eli? Britt McHenry thinks it might be the little brother. (Photo: Associated Press)

In the time that Peyton and Eli Manning have taken Indianapolis and the New York Giants to multiple playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title each, the Redskins have trotted out 13 quarterbacks.

I'm not an expert in genetic theory, but I'm pretty sure if it was possible to clone aspects of the Manning brothers, who have combined for 82,407 regular season passing yards and 584 touchdown passes, general managers and coaches around the league would do it.

But if that mad scientist was instructed to choose just one quarterback; to go with one stroke of luck for the procreation of phenomenal play callers; they'd probably pick Peyton.

Or would they?

In the course of one year, we saw dual transformations of the Manning brothers. After starting all 16 games in his 13th consecutive season and notching yet another bid to the Pro Bowl, Peyton has to push pause on his own personal Madden controller. The multiple neck surgeries he underwent last summer and before this season forced him to miss the entire 2012 season. It's still yet to be known when the next time he'll step on an NFL field will be.

Peyton's yellow brick road to Lucas Oil Stadium is hitting a further fork as it becomes increasingly more likely he and the Colts will part ways. The team has to pay Manning a $28 million roster bonus in early March or he becomes a free agent.

With a certain Stanford prodigy, Andrew Luck, waiting in the wings on draft day, and a public spat between Peyton and Colts owner Jim Irsay, it's hard not to wonder is Manning's run in Indy is over.

This week, Peyton told the media he's not retiring. There are plenty of quarterback-hungry teams all but willing to roll the dice on the 36-year-old legend who slung for 4,700 yards in 2011.

But if he departs Indianapolis, Peyton leaves his franchise team with one Super Bowl title. In a few days, his younger brother could earn his second.

Just four years after leading the New York Giants to one of the most stunning upsets in NFL history in Super Bowl XLII over the New England Patriots, little brother has a chance to do it all over again this Sunday - ironically, on big brother's home field.

Beyond the chance to double Peyton's championship total, only Eli and Saints quarterback Drew Brees have thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in each of the last seven seasons.

Meanwhile, there's no doubt that "4th Quarter Eli" has been able to come through in the clutch. He threw his 15th-career 4th quarter touchdown pass against Dallas in a game that clinched the NFC East. It broke a record for most final-quarter touchdown passes in a season previously held by Johnny Unitas and, who else?, Peyton.

Lest we forget Eli's most famous 4th-quarter comeback: the one he led in the Arizona desert to knock off the undefeated Patriots in 2008.

NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth even went as far to say, "now he's on the other side of Peyton Manning."

More telling than any number, however, is Eli's ability to lead. At one point this season, the Giants had the worst running game in the league. Eli was forced to win with a pass-heavy offense, and he got the job done.

It might not have always been pretty; surely not like the solid 14-2 regular season records Peyton helped generate in 2005 and 2009 for the Colts. His 2007 Super Bowl champion Giants and his year's team posted 10-6 and 9-7 records. In fact, when New York went 12-4 and finished with the NFC's top seed, they were bounced in the Divisional Playoff round by the Philadelphia Eagles.

But just as he did four seasons ago, Eli is once again commanding a team that got hot when it mattered and stayed that way. That attribute could lead him and the Giants to the franchise's 4th Super Bowl title on Sunday.

Peyton Manning has always been, in my eyes, one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. However, with Peyton's future uncertain and his younger brother on the brink of repeating glory, I think Eli may leave the history books with a more impressive legacy.

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