Is New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning a Hall of Famer? That question will be asked every year for the next decade or more. There are many arguments that can be made in favor or against Manning’s inclusion into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here are the two sides of the debate, along with my take on Manning’s chances of making it to Canton:
Why he will get in
Manning will always be known as the quarterback who twice took down the Brady-Belichick Patriots in the Super Bowl. No one can take the two Super Bowl triumphs away from him. People can say he got lucky. People can say that the Giants’ defense was more responsible than the offense was for their postseason success in both Super Bowl runs. But no one can take away the fact that Manning has two game-winning drives in the Super Bowl against the greatest dynasty the league has seen in fifty years.
It is often said that the true mark of a Hall-of-Fame player, specifically at the quarterback position, is that the history of the game cannot be told without mentioning that player. Manning is an integral piece in the history of the NFL. He is one of five players in NFL history who has won multiple Super Bowl MVP Awards. The other four (Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Tom Brady) are all considered to be legends of the game. Why should Manning be treated any differently than those quarterbacks?
In addition to the Super Bowl wins, Manning quarterbacked the Giants to five road playoff victories. Two of those wins were at Lambeau Field, where the Packers have only lost four playoff games.
Manning has the moments and the rings, and he also has the statistics that a Hall of Famer needs to have. He is one of seven quarterbacks in NFL history who has at least 50,000 passing yards, at least 330 passing touchdowns, and six or more seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards. The other quarterbacks on that list are Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, and Brett Favre.
Eli’s other accomplishments include four Pro Bowl selections and the second-longest start streak by a quarterback (210 games) in NFL history. The start streak underscores Manning’s toughness. There were a lot of games in which he played through pain or took a handful of vicious hits and kept on playing.
Manning’s calling card throughout his career has been his ability to come through in big moments. He is tied for eleventh all-time with 26 fourth-quarter comebacks and is tied for ninth all-time with 35 game-winning drives. Former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi made the decision to trade up for Manning in the 2004 NFL Draft. In his original scouting report of Manning, Accorsi pointed out that Manning possessed a quality that Accorsi called “Magic.” Throughout the years, Manning has proven Accorsi right by leading the Giants to several thrilling victories in big games.
Off the field, Manning carries himself the way a Hall of Famer should. In fact, Manning won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for the 2016 NFL season for the work he has done with various charities. He has a great relationship with the media, which will help his candidacy. Above all, Manning is (and has been) a leader who is (and was) respected by his teammates. No one can question Manning’s skills, toughness, statistics, or achievements. He is, without question, a Hall of Famer.
Why he won’t get in
Manning may have two Super Bowl rings, but that does not mean he is a great quarterback. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, and Manning has been blessed with some ridiculous luck throughout his career. The Helmet Catch and Wes Welker‘s drop are the two plays most responsible for Manning’s Giants winning their Super Bowls.
Throughout the first decade of his career, Manning had a great defense, a solid offensive line, and a great head coach. He is a quarterback who can thrive when he has talent around him, but he is not a quarterback who has proven that he can elevate a bad or mediocre team into being a good or great team.
His career statistics are impressive, but not always in a good way. There is a chance that Manning could end his career with the most losses (among QBs) in NFL history. He is 20 losses away from breaking Vinny Testaverde‘s all-time record for NFL quarterback losses. There is also a chance that Manning could end his career with a losing record. It’s hard to imagine a QB with a losing record being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Of course, Manning has led the league in interceptions three times and is tied for 15th all-time with 228 interceptions thrown. He will never reach Brett Favre’s record of 336 career interceptions, but that is beside the point. Manning has been an interception-throwing machine throughout his career.
While Manning has been named to four Pro Bowls, he has never been an All-Pro or been named regular-season MVP. He doesn’t need an MVP award to be voted into the Hall of Fame, but it would certainly help his cause. The real argument here is that one would expect a Hall of Fame QB to make more than four Pro Bowls in his career. Some Hall of Fame voters may be not be willing to vote for a player who has made fewer Pro Bowls than several of his peers.
Another counterargument to Manning’s impressive statistics is that Manning is currently playing in an era in which the rules are more favorable for quarterbacks. Furthermore, Manning’s stats are not all that impressive compared to the statistics of his peers. Tony Romo, Kirk Cousins, Matt Schaub, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, and Joe Flacco all have a higher career passer rating than Manning. Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers will soon join Manning on the list of quarterbacks who have 50,000 passing yards, 330 passing TDs, and six 4,000-yard seasons. This list will only continue to become less exclusive as time goes on, as several young quarterbacks will have a chance to reach these totals.
The most damning arguments against Manning are that Manning does not strike fear into his opponents and that Manning is not an all-time great quarterback. Manning is not feared the way all-time greats such as Montana and Brady are. Opposing defenses do not need to prepare for Manning the way they prepare for Montana and Brady.
In addition, Manning has never been one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL at any point in his career. Brady, Brees, Rodgers, brother Peyton, Russell Wilson, and Roethlisberger are definitely better than Eli. Favre and Kurt Warner were better than Eli when they were in the NFL, and both are in the Hall of Fame. Eli is a borderline Hall of Famer, and he is in the second tier of active quarterbacks, which includes the likes of Rivers, Ryan, Romo, and Newton. In addition, young QBs such as Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, and Jimmy Garoppolo have a chance to be known as quarterbacks who are better than Manning. All 15 of the quarterbacks I just mentioned are not going to Canton; there are 26 quarterbacks from the Modern Era who are in the Hall of Fame as of this writing. Manning was a good quarterback, but he was not an all-time great who is worthy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The Bottom Line
Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame credentials (or lack thereof) will be up for debate in the coming years. His statistics will begin to waver as signal-callers such as Rodgers, Ryan, Roethlisberger, and Wilson surpass his stats.
Manning can fall in the all-time rankings in certain statistical categories, but his contributions to the NFL and the New York Giants will never be forgotten. Manning may not be an elite quarterback all of the time, but he has proven that he can play at an elite level in big games.
In terms of career achievements, he ranks at the top of the second tier that was brought up in the “why he won’t get in” section. Manning should be ranked below Brady, Brees, Rodgers, brother Peyton, Wilson, and Roethlisberger. However, he should be ranked above Rivers, Ryan, Newton, and Romo. Manning’s resume is just barely good enough to justify being selected to the Hall of Fame. He will not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he will eventually get in. Eli Manning should- and will- get to put on a Gold Jacket some day.
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