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Eli Manning walks back Monday night snark regarding Russell Wilson

Charles Robinson believes Denver's suffering the consequences of not playing starters in the preseason, but thinks it's unfortunate that Nathaniel Hackett is receiving guff for asking for help after identifying a need.

The ManningCast is so good because it’s just a couple of guys who know a thing or two about football talking about football. It’s loose, it’s unscripted, it’s fun.

And it sometimes includes poking a little harmless fun at a team, a player, a coach, whoever.

Eli Manning did that on Monday night, regarding the performance of the Broncos offense with Russell Wilson at quarterback. One night after Denver punter Corliss Waitman kicked the ball 10 times, Eli said during the broadcast, “They should have paid that punter $235 million instead of Russell.”

One day later, Eli was backpedaling.

Eli told Michael McCarthy of that Eli wasn’t taking a shot at Wilson.

I don’t think we’re trying to be critical,” Eli said. “I think we always try to support the guys that are in the game. I think sometimes, ‘Hey, it’s live TV.’ I never try to take a real shot at somebody. I think that was obviously a very outrageous joke -- because a punter had 10 punts. Nothing against Russell. He’s going to do great.”

But Eli didn’t say they should pay the punter in addition to Wilson. Eli said they should pay the punter “instead of” Wilson.

Here’s the reality. People who say what needs to be said in a way that will be well received by the audience will at times piss people off. And there’s a political game that Peyton and Eli need to play, whether it’s aimed at getting the right guests for the right games or, ultimately, persuading the game’s best players to show up for the alternative to the Pro Bowl, which will be an Omaha Productions production.

Eli’s trying to have it both ways. He wants to be entertaining on the ManningCast, but he also doesn’t want to burn bridges. Sometimes, he’ll be on the wrong side of that line. When he is, he should just own it and move on. And if he has to do some private damage control after the fact, so be it. But he shouldn’t act like he didn’t say exactly what he said.

And if he worries too much about saying things that others may not like, the ManningCast is going to become far less compelling and entertaining than it has been.