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New York Giants’ Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin cement legendary legacies

I Nice to see an old warrior who socked away enough of his haul. Jim Plunkett, the former Oakland Raiders quarterback who won two Super Bowls, brought 15 people to this one at $1,200 a head just for tickets.

Plunkett shrugged it off. “That’s always one of the easiest decisions of my life, whether to go to the Super Bowl,” he said.

One of the others was deciding to play for the late Raiders owner Al Davis. Davis’ spirit still catches a lot of heat for chicanery, but Davis’ guidance, quite simply, is why Plunkett is still flush.

And now, a new crop of millionaires is sprouting, with Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin in the forefront. Manning, 31, primarily engineered the New York Giants’ 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots. Coughlin, 65, drew up the original blueprint.

“Tom, he’s the greatest,” Eli said in Monday’s mandatory appearance as Supe 46 Most Valuable Player. “Playing for him has been a gift from God to me. I can’t tell you how many times Tom has done just the right thing when it would have been so easy to do something wrong.”

That’s a touching tribute from a man representing a position and a breed that so often thinks it not only invented the world but kept it going round and round.

Just as important: Eli means it.

This kid — at 31 he still looks 19 — learned to tell the truth a long time ago, even if it sometimes jars his Southern sensibilities when he’s critical of something or somebody else.

I figure he learned from big brother Peyton that you have to take a position and stand on it, or people will just keep knocking you off your feet.

Tell you what I think about when somebody speculates on the futures of Manning and Coughlin. That is, neither is going to do anything to tarnish the images they have built to such towering heights.

Eli is a conservative sort who won’t be buying any stock in hamster factories.

Coughlin might not still have his first nickel, but he can remember how he spent it. Probably something real foolish, like an ice cream cone. He’s a wild and crazy guy, right?

Me, I’m happy to see all this. I wouldn’t have been hacked off if Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were standing on the victory podium, but they’ve been there, and sometimes, well, sometimes they’re just cold, man. If either ever shed a tear, it had to be behind not only closed but tightly locked doors. Belichick especially isn’t going to emote all over anybody. The last time he cried was when his third-grade team got licked at recess. And he hid behind a tree to do that.

And finally, the Hall of Fame thing.

Inevitably, as it always does after he and brother Peyton stamped their tickets to the pantheon in Canton, the Hall subject came up. Eli’s father Archie was asked if had pondered the possibility of having two sons, Eli and Peyton, in the hallowed halls of Canton, Ohio, some distant day.

“Well, that must creep into the mind of every father who’s ever had a son in the NFL,” Archie said. “All I know is this. Eli was criticized earlier for saying he belonged with the elite quarterbacks. Well, I guarantee you he will not be saying he belongs in the Hall.”

Even though he does.