The National Football League had a busy couple of weeks with the Super Bowl and the announcement of the 2020 Hall of Fame class. Super Bowl LIV wasn’t a game that’ll go down in history for its excitement, but the overall consensus is the Kansas City Chiefs are deserved winners of the Lombardi trophy. With the 2019 NFL season officially over, conversation will shift to the 2020 NFL Draft, trade rumors, free agent signings and further analysis on future Hall of Fame inductees. Enter Eli Manning. The New York Giants quarterback announced his retirement on January 24, 2020. The countdown officially started on that day, which means in just about five years there will be a final verdict on whether or not Eli Manning will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The buzz around this season was Drew Brees becoming the all-time leader in NFL passing touchdowns. The Saints quarterback surpassed Tom Brady at the end of the season, but the big news was both Brees and Brady went ahead of Peyton Manning, Eli’s brother. Speaking of whom, #10’s statistics aren’t exactly chump change. The younger Manning is currently 7th on the all-time TD pass list (366), total career passing yards list (57,023) and total career completion list (4,895). If you think Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger are locks for the Hall of Fame (will probably surpass Eli on this list before retirement), than shouldn’t Manning be considered a lock? It should also be mentioned that those numbers put him ahead of 25 current Hall of Fame quarterbacks. It should also be mentioned that Manning is 3rd on the all-time consecutive start list (210) behind Philip Rivers (224) and Brett Favre (297).
The Arguments Against
For some reason there are a lot of people “hating” on Eli. Unfortunately, for the former Giants’ quarterback he’s given them some fuel to argue the case against a Hall of Fame induction. In his career, Eli is 117-117, which isn’t a great winning percentage. He’s won 2 Super Bowls, but he missed the playoffs 8 out of the 14 years he was the Giants’ starter. In that span, he lead the league in interceptions 3 times. He’s had an inconsistent career and most will remember him for his play in the final couple years of his career, which was subpar. The biggest knock on Eli is probably his “aww shucks” perception. Unlike Peyton, fans get the impression Eli approached the game with a low-key demeanor, which is an unfair biased. Fortunately for him, the court of public opinion does not get you elected into the Hall of Fame.
Two Super Bowl MVPs
Statistics aside, one of the strongest arguments for Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame candidacy is his two Super Bowl MVPs. He played some of his best football when it mattered – in the postseason. In the opening, we discussed this year’s Super Bowl being mundane. Manning participated in two of the more exciting Super Bowls in our lifetime – one that included beating the undefeated New England Patriots XLII. He is responsible for two of the more famous passes in the history of the big game – the incredible “Helmet Catch” to David Tyree and a 38-yard perfect pass to Mario Manningham late in the fourth quarter that is ranked 15th on all-time clutch plays in the Super Bowl. One cannot argue the fact that Manning was clutch in the Super Bowl and it earned him two rings. The only other players with multiple Super Bowl MVPs are Bart Starr, Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Terry Bradshaw. Once again, those four guys are no-doubt Hall of Famers.
The Timing of Hall of Fame Voting
One of the factors that will positively impact Eli Manning’s chances of being elected into the Hall of Fame is timing. Five years from now when voters are reviewing the 2019 class, Eli will be the bests offensive player on the ballot by a country mile. Sure, he benefits from the fact that Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Larry Fitzgerald and Frank Gore are on schedule to suit up for the 2020 season, but that’s not his fault. The fact of the matter is – timing DOES matter. Due to the fact the ballot will be thin, not only will it benefit Eli in getting into the Hall, he’ll most-likely be a first ballot inductee.
The Hall of Fame
One of the more interesting notes on Manning’s Hall of Fame candidacy is the lack of support he’s receiving from fellow retired players. Guys like Deion Sanders, Steve Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson all disagree with Eli being a Hall of Famer on the grounds that he wasn’t a “game-changing” quarterback. To their point, Hall of Fame players should be game-changers and should be guys who dominated their position. In that case, it’s hard to argue with them because Eli wasn’t a game-changer, he didn’t dominate the league. However, he was very good for a very long time and GREAT when it mattered the most. He didn’t “redefine” the position of quarterback, but he solidified what the definition of a quarterback should be – a leader, clutch, consistent. Eli Manning did the job right and he did it for a very long time. That’s something that can’t be overlooked when evaluating his Hall of Fame resume. The quarterback position is probably one of the hardest jobs in all of professional sports. Manning is a guy who held it down for over two decades in New York, while delivering two championships. Yes, you can argue his inconsistency wasn’t “Hall of Fame material”, but his overall statistics and achievements are certainly worthy. At the end of the day, Eli Manning will be inducted into the Hall of Fame and he will represent the NFL great like he represented the New York Giants his entire career with class, dignity, respect and maybe a little “aww shucks”.