Is Eli Manning in Same NFL Elite Class as Tom Brady?

Football ManiaxsSenior Writer IAugust 18, 2011

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 13:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants against the Carolina Panthers during their preseason game at Bank of America Stadium on August 13, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

By Derek Lofland.

New York Giants QB Eli Manning made an interesting statement, something that he is usually not known for doing. Tuesday, while a guest on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN New York 1050, Manning was asked if he is in the same class as three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots QB Tom Brady.


"I consider myself in that class," said Manning, the MVP of Super Bowl XLII. "Tom Brady is a great quarterback, he's a great player and what you've seen with him is he's gotten better every year.

"He started off winning championships and I think he's a better quarterback now than what he was, in all honesty, when he was winning those championships."


The quote is creating a lot of negative reaction from both Patriots fans and anti-Manning people who think that the Giants quarterback is out of line for making those comments. I think people need to take a step back, as this is one of those situations where his comments are actually taken out of context.


There are two ways to look at the question. When Manning is asked if he thinks he is in the Brady class, does that mean that he is on the same level as Brady is historically or does that mean that Manning is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL today?


If Manning thinks he is in the Brady class historically, he is delusional at best. Brady is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. There are only two quarterbacks in 2010 that could claim to be in the same class as Brady, Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning and the now retired Brett Favre.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees is close, but I do not think he is in the slam-dunk first ballot category where the other three players reside. He still has time to join that group, but he is not there yet.

Eli Manning has never struck me as someone that is delusional, so I cannot possibly think that he meant that he was in the same class as Brady historically. I think what Michael Kay was trying to ask and what Manning took as the meaning of the question is whether Manning considers himself one of the top quarterbacks in the game, today.

There are five players playing right now that are unquestionably better than Manning: Brady, Peyton Manning, Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger.

Then there is the next group of quarterbacks where there is some debate. I would put the San Diego ChargersPhilip Rivers ahead of Manning. He has a 55-25 record as a starter, has thrown for 19,661 yards passing, 136 touchdowns, 58 interceptions and a QB rating of 97.2 in just 80 career starts.

Manning has started 23 more games and is only 60-43 as a starter. He has 22,646 yards passing, 156 touchdowns, 113 interceptions and a QB rating of 80.2. However, Manning has a Super Bowl ring, and Rivers has never played in a Super Bowl. Some people would value that achievement over the statistics.

Who are you going to put ahead of Manning after that? The Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan or Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco? Ryan has never won a playoff game and Flacco has never been to a Super Bowl. Both have only been in the league three years.

They have the potential to be better than Manning, but they certainly have not put up the prolific passing numbers that Rivers has or had the postseason success that Manning had in 2007. Although the Houston Texans’ Matt Schaub has put up some prolific passing numbers, he is only 25-29 as a starter in Houston. He has never won 10 games in a season, much less made the playoffs.

The Dallas CowboysTony Romo is the only other quarterback in the NFL that I think belongs in the discussion. He is much more efficient than Manning with a 95.2 QB rating, but has won one playoff game since taking over as the starter in 2006.

He has three Pro Bowl seasons to Manning’s one, but is only 39-22 as a starting quarterback. Manning’s Giants also beat Romo’s Cowboys head-to-head in a playoff game in 2007 in Dallas. Opinions will differ based on the preference for statistics or postseason success.

Best case scenario, Manning is the sixth-best quarterback in the NFL, and worst case scenario, he is eighth. If you have him any higher than sixth, you’re being a homer and if you have him any lower than eighth with someone other than Rivers or Romo better than him, you are being a hater.

Does that make him elite? I really do not see how he is not one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. He won a Super Bowl back in 2007, leading the Giants to a win over Brady's 18-0 New England Patriots, 17-14. He won the Super Bowl MVP for that game, so it was not as if he just handed the ball off to a running back the entire game.

He has started 103 consecutive regular season games; only his brother Peyton has an active streak with more consecutive starts. Manning has back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons; the only quarterbacks in the league that have done that the past two years are Brees, Manning, Rivers and Schaub.

He threw 31 touchdown passes in 2010 and 27 touchdown passes in 2009. The only quarterbacks that have thrown 27 touchdown passes or more the last two seasons are Brady, Peyton Manning, Rivers, Brees and Rodgers.

The only quarterbacks that have similar accomplishments to him are the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, how can he not be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL?  That is a much different question than asking if what he has done makes him a Hall of Famer. 

The bar is much higher for the Hall of Fame.  The NFL has 23 quarterbacks that have been enshrined in the Modern Era, which goes back to the early 1950s. Only eight of those Hall of Famers played football from 1980 to the present (Troy Aikman, John Elway, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Warren Moon and Steve Young). Favre, Brady and Peyton Manning are locks.

Brees and retired Kurt Warner are very likely to be inducted. Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Rivers are closer to having a Hall of Fame career than Manning is at this point in his career. If you look at the trend, there probably is not enough room for him to make it unless he goes on a tear for the next seven years dominating passing statistics or winning multiple Super Bowls.

The Hall of Fame is for the immortals, and Manning is not in that category with what he has accomplished today. Keep in mind he just turned 30 years old this year; he has some football in his prime to be played.

I do not think that not being a Hall of Famer makes Manning a bad player. There are many quarterbacks that have won Super Bowls or had solid lengthy careers that have not been Hall of Fame players. Oakland Raiders QB Ken Stabler and New York Giants QB Phil Simms are two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks that come to mind.

New England Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe, Cincinnati Bengals QB Boomer Esiason, Tennessee Titans QB Steve McNair and Seattle Seahawks QB Dave Krieg come to mind as very good quarterbacks that will probably never make it to Canton. Manning would have nothing to hang his head about if he is lumped in that group of players when his career is done.

I do not think anyone would have criticized those guys for saying they were elite quarterbacks when they were in their prime. I do not find that to be a problem when the guy saying yes to that question has won a Super Bowl and accomplished the things Manning has.

Some people are acting like Washington Redskins QB Rex Grossman just proclaimed himself an elite quarterback. There are about 25 teams in the league that would be making an upgrade if Manning became their quarterback this year. That is elite enough for me.

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