If you had to bet on two current NFL players to make it to the Hall of Fame, who would you pick?
While paying my respects to LaDainian Tomlinson and Ray Lewis, I think the majority of people would answer Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Recently, these two surefire Hall-of-Famers have been overshadowed by a less accomplished, less charismatic prankster, and Eli Manning deserves the same Canton induction.
Peyton and Brady have been the class of the NFL for over a decade. Combined, they have earned six MVPs and three Super Bowl MVPs. Among active players, they rank No. 1 and No. 2 for most passing TDs. Peyton ranks first in basically every other passing category, with Brady always in the top five.
Add in the fact that they’re both camera friendly, and it makes sense why the NFL has had such a profitable decade.
Eli is entering his ninth season. While he’s now got two Super Bowl MVPs, he’s still not in the top five for any passing category and his two pro bowls are dwarfed by the 18 combined from Brady and Peyton. But Eli can chuck it.
Let’s be conservative and estimate Eli will play six more seasons (Peyton is entering his 15th). Even though he’s thrown for over 4,000 yards each of the last three seasons, his career average is a little less than 3,500 yards per season. If he throws for 3,500 yards for six more seasons, he’ll have more career passing yards than all the current Hall of Fame Quarterbacks, except three.
Eli now also belongs to a club of 11 quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl rings. Peyton tried to get in, wearing the mustache from that Sprint commercial, but Goodell had a guy at the door. Even more remarkable about this Club Eleven is Brady would have the whole VIP section to himself with five rings if it weren’t for Eli (and the Giants’ pass rush).
It’s a disservice to what he’s done, but Eli’s legacy will not be about his accomplishments. His legacy will always be about what he prevented Brady from achieving.
Heading into Super Bowl XLII, Brady was basically Floyd Mayweather. Eight years in the league, 3-0 in Super Bowls and coming in with an 18-0 team. And just like Mayweather fighting anyone not named Pacquaio, no one thought the undefeated team would lose. But they did. Eli and the Giants escaped by their shirtsleeves.
But then, against all probability, Brady got a rematch four years later. A chance at redemption. Against that same pass rush and aww-shucks quarterback, another opportunity to get his fourth ring. Surely, two tries is enough for Brady. But Eli did it again. Two Super Bowl wins is an incredible accomplishment. But two Super Bowl wins against an experienced Tom Brady is even more incredible.
Eli is a clutch 4th-quarter passer and throws a beautiful downfield ball, but he will always be remembered for what he prevented Tom Brady and the Patriots from winning.
While it belittles Eli’s career to summarize it with two games, the NFL is all about capitalizing on the moment. NFL careers are short and players have limited opportunities to create a lasting legacy.
Peyton will go down as one of the best ever, with his only blemish being one ring (for now). Brady will leave a legacy of a perfect regular season, and at least three Super Bowl rings. Eli will be remembered as The Guy Brady Couldn’t Beat.
Good enough for Canton and a lot better than Peyton’s little prankster brother.