Kudos to Costas for coming up with a new way to get insights from Manning about the record. He asked him for his thoughts about the previous QBs who held the record.
As usual, Manning showed his knack for always saying the right thing.
First Costas started with a story of interviewing Sammy Baugh.
Bob Costas: “One of the greatest days in my professional sports career was an afternoon I got to spend with Sammy Baugh in Rotan, Texas. It was about 15 years ago. An interesting story about how I got there. We flew in to Snyder, Texas, but there were no rental cars in Snyder. So we drove from Snyder to Rotan in a hearse. I did sit in the front seat though. A lot of records will be broken in the NFL. One record that will never be broken: No quarterback will ever lead the league in touchdowns, interceptions as a defensive back, and punting average. Sammy Baugh did that.”
Bob Costas: “After that, the [TD] record was held by Bobby Layne. He was a different kind of guy than Sammy Baugh or yourself.”
Manning: “I never knew Bobby Layne, but my dad knew him and said he was fun guy with great charisma. When I studied him, I found out what a great competitor he was. Maybe one of the great competitors of all time, at quarterback.”
Costas: “Then Y.A. Tittle.”
Manning: “I met Y.A. Tittle a number of times. That great picture of him on his knees, bloodied, tells you how tough he was. From what I studied, he was ahead of his time. He threw for seven touchdowns in a game. He was a special quarterback.”
Costas: “After Y.A. Tittle, then came Johnny Unitas. He held the record next.”
Manning: “I had an evening with Johnny Unitas at a banquet. I presented him with a pair of black high-tops. I wore black high-tops at Tennessee, and of course I knew Unitas did. We have a picture of him holding the high-tops, and he really liked it. That moment was very special for me. He was arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and the first pure timing passer.”
Costas: “Unitas finished at 290. Eventually Fran Tarkenton got to 342 and held the record for a long, long time.”
Manning: “I never met Fran Tarkenton. He and my dad are good friends, and he keeps up with me through my dad. I didn’t realize what a great passer Fran was. I knew he was a great scrambler. The fact that he threw for so many touchdowns, he was ahead of his time, and that record held for 20 years.”
Costas: “And then Dan Marino. He was the first to go past 400, and it looked like that mark would last for a long, long time.”
Manning: “My dad has always been my favorite player. You have to have a current favorite player, and Eli is obviously my current favorite player. Marino was my guy. I loved the way he competed, managed the game, and controlled the game. One of my very first games in the NFL was against Marino. We didn’t win, but I always remember that he hugged me after the game and said ‘Keep your head up, you’re going to play a long time in this league.’
I‘ve never forgotten that. He was probably the greatest passer of all time.”
Costas: “And then Brett Favre. No matter how you battered him and knocked him around, he showed up every Sunday and got the record.”
Manning: “I think that all players would like to be able to say that they played with as much passion as Brett Favre. I don’t know anybody else that can say it. I hope you can say that about me, but I’m not sure it does justice to Favre. Nobody had more passion than he did. There will never be anyone quite like him.”