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Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Fletcher, Manning the East's iron men

By Dan Graziano

You may have heard something about Peyton Manning maybe not starting the Colts' opener because of his neck injury. And if you have, you've surely heard mention of the fact that Manning has made 208 consecutive starts -- the longest active consecutive-starts streak of any player in the NFL. So if Manning doesn't make the start, that streak ends, and Mike Sando of the NFC West blog did a chart that lists the players with the longest such streaks after Manning.

Manning
Fletcher
Should Manning miss the game, the longest consecutive-starts streak in the league would belong to Buccaneers safety Ronde Barber, currently at 183. But next on that list is Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher at 163. And a little further down that list, at No. 13 overall currently and No. 2 among quarterbacks behind only his brother, is the New York Giants' Eli Manning at 103.

Fletcher, as Redskins fans know, is one of the most consistently productive defensive players in the league. The fact that only Peyton Manning and Ronde Barber among active NFL players have made more consecutive starts is a testament to his durability, his consistency and his ability to thrive in the leadership role he has assumed in the latter stages of his career. He's 36 years old, so he'd be 38 if and when his streak got to 200. And he'd have to play (and start every week) until the age of 45 to match Brett Favre's all-time record of 297 consecutive starts. So it's not as though Fletcher is likely to get too many accolades for this. But it's worth noting, especially about a player who's not always talked about among the best defensive players in the game but does enough to warrant a place in that discussion.

And speaking of underappreciated players ... Yeah, Eli Manning has the second-longest current streak of consecutive quarterback starts in the league. We have this running debate here on the blog about Eli vs. Tony Romo, and I'm on record saying I rate Romo slightly ahead of Eli in a close race. And some people get very upset about that when I say it and use all kinds of crazy arguments to shoot me down. But the one argument (that doesn't come up enough, actually) for which I have no real answer is the durability one. Romo has been injured, and Eli has not. He plays. He takes the ball, and he shows up, every single week, to lead his team. That's clearly a point of pride in the Manning family, and I don't expect Big Brother to give up his streak easily. But if he does, and all of a sudden Eli Manning is the reigning iron man quarterback in the NFL, that would have to make people take notice of something very positive about a player who seems to attract a lot of negative thought.

Incidentally, if he kept his streak alive, Eli Manning would pass Favre in the third game of the 2023 season, at the Favre-ian age of 42.