By all accounts, ESPN's "Manning Cast" is a winner, so much so the network is trying replicate the alternative broadcast in other sports. The loser is every active player who appeared on the broadcast.
With the Green Bay Packers' upset loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the "Manning Cast" curse has finished the NFL regular season undefeated. Every single active NFL player who appeared on the "Monday Night Football" broadcast with Peyton and Eli Manning lost the next week, some in truly shocking circumstances.
Here is the full list and corresponding result:
Week 1: Travis Kelce, Chiefs lose to Ravens in Week 2
Week 1: Russell Wilson, Seahawks lose to Titans in Week 2
Week 2: Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers lose to Rams in Week 3
Week 3: Matthew Stafford, Rams lose to Cardinals in Week 4
Week 7: Tom Brady, Buccaneers lose to Saints in Week 8
Week 8: Josh Allen, Bills lose to Jaguars in Week 9
Week 17: Aaron Rodgers, Packers lose to Lions in Week 18
Small wonder that the only active player who appeared in the final five Manning Casts was Aaron Rodgers, whose team had already locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and had nothing to play for Sunday. Even a pro golfer was taking it seriously, or not so seriously.
The Mannings are well aware of the situation. During one appearance on a podcast, Peyton acknowledged that active players were not doing the show:
“If somebody at ESPN said well the Madden curse, players kept doing it no matter what. I said that’s because they were getting paid. If you get paid, you don’t care about a curse. That is not a comparison. Last time I checked, we are not paying anyone to come on the show with Eli and I. Obviously, I hope it is not true.
"We always have the retired players, the coaches that don't have a game next week. I'm actually thinking of putting on whoever the Broncos or Colts play the following week to help my teams get a victory. That's coming into play a little bit. Hopefully, the next player that we have on, if we have on, wins the next week and we can kill that. Right now, it is what it is.”
That next player would be Rodgers, so the curse lived on.
Curse aside, there is little denying that the "Manning Cast" has been a success, at least for the people airing it. Just by sitting in their basements, the Manning brothers delivered something legitimately different from every other NFL broadcast, building buzz through viral moments (some maybe a little too viral), deep analysis and A-list guests.
ESPN will almost certainly be hoping that success can continue through 2022, but booking may be a little difficult in Year 2.