The first year of the ManningCast on ESPN2 was a fun experiment, but it wasn't the fleshed-out version of what the network or Peyton and Eli Manning envisioned. They want it to be more than a broadcast good for a couple of viral moments every year, sometimes due to the broadcasting inexperience the on-screen talent has. They want it to be a viable alternative to the main broadcast. A place for those who enjoy the ambient noise of the game and insight two former quarterbacks can offer in an informal manner.
Year 2 of the ManningCast has the brothers moving closer to that goal. Last night's Cowboys-Giants game was a good example. Peyton and Eli just feel more... comfortable up there. They figured out how to smoothly cut to commercial by the end of last season but have shown marked improvement this year over the course of a three-hour broadcast. It feels more natural when Peyton points out an interesting quirk of the offense or when Eli breaks down a defensive coverage to explain why a quarterback made a certain decision.
The most indicative component of all this is the silence that can permeate the ManningCast. Last year, when Peyton and Eli had no guests or planned X's and O's breakdowns and were left to their own devices for half a quarter, it felt uncomfortable at times. Breaks in their conversation would stretch too long and the two would clearly begin to look awkward as they tried to think of something to say. When they did, the transition would be pretty abrupt. One of the overarching goals of the broadcast is to make the conversation flow naturally, like it would if you were sitting in the living room with the two brothers yourself. They had a lot of trouble with that in Year 1, which is simply explained by their lack of television experience.
Last night, though, there were multiple moments where they'd go quiet, partially due to the fact that they stacked nearly all their guests into one quarter. But it didn't feel like dead air on the call. The breaks were more natural and exiting them even more so. It is a mark of Peyton and Eli's progress that they clearly feel comfortable letting the sounds of the game reign for a few minutes before gently transitioning back into a conversation. It makes for a much better viewing experience sandwiched between their very real reactions to incredible and/or stupid plays on the field.
The ManningCast itself is still not a finished product. The production team is still finding its groove with the guest selection and the timing of the sideshow skits shown over the broadcast of the actual game. But the Mannings themselves have gotten a lot better.