Eli Manning Leaves Lasting New York Legacy, Has Earned a Spot in Hall of Fame

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 23, 2020

El quarterback de los Giants de Nueva York Eli Manning celebra con el trofeo Vince Lombardi tras su victoria en el Super Bowl XLVI ante los los Patriots de Nueva Inglaterra el domingo 5 de febrero de 2012 en Indianápolis. El Super Bowl fue visto por 111,3 millones de personas en Estados Unidos de acuerdo con cifras difundidas por Nielsen Co. el lunes 6 de febrero de 2012. (Foto AP/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Thirty-three quarterbacks who have been active in the last 10 years have higher career passer ratings than Eli Manning. That list includes Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, David Garrard, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. 

Dalton, Mariota, Kyle Orton and Blake Bortles have lower career interception rates, while Winston, Garrard, Keenum and Joe Flacco have higher completion percentages

Manning has lost as many games as he's won. His .500 career regular-season winning percentage ranks behind Dalton, Flacco and Matt Schaub.

Manning was never even an MVP candidate—was never even a second-team All-Pro—and in 16 NFL seasons, he made just four Pro Bowls. Donovan McNabb, who isn't in the Hall of Fame, made six. Fifteen other quarterbacks who are eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame earned exactly four Pro Bowl nods, and only three of them have busts in Canton.

Those are the arguments you'll hear this week—and for weeks, months and years to come—from those who oppose Manning's potential induction into the Hall of Fame.

No matter. Manning, who retired Wednesday, is an NFL legend, a New York sports hero and—most importantly—a Hall of Famer. 

All it took was this and this

Seriously. 

Manning, thanks mainly to two amazing, history-making fourth-quarter throws on Super Bowl-winning drives in 2008 and 2012, is one of only five players with two Super Bowl MVPs on his resume. The other four—Tom Brady (four), Joe Montana (three), Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw—are all no-doubt Hall of Famers. 

Manning, in an underdog role, led fourth-quarter comebacks to slay Brady's Goliath New England Patriots—the greatest dynasty in NFL history—twice in a four-year span. You do that and nothing else matters. You've left an indelible mark on the game.

It's become impossible to write the NFL's story from start to finish without a chapter on the 2007 and 2011 Manning-led Giants, which from this perspective means Elisha Nelson Manning has to be honored in Canton. 

Manning would be a Hall of Famer even without the gravy that he provided in the other 246 games he played. But it helps that he also lit up the Atlanta Falcons, the 15-1 Green Bay Packers and the 13-3 San Francisco 49ers on that 2011 playoff run, and that he also came through in several clutch moments while posting big numbers on New York's 2007 run before he spoiled New England's perfect season.

He did some good things between September and December too. 

Only nine players in NFL history have led more regular-season game-winning drives than Manning, who earned Pro Bowl nods in three non-Super Bowl seasons (2008, 2012 and 2015). And from 2004 to 2017, he started 210 consecutive games, which is the third-longest quarterback ironman streak in league history. 

He also played well enough for long enough to accumulate Hall of Fame-worthy raw numbers. Only six quarterbacks have passed for more yards, and five of them are either already in the Hall of Fame or are Canton shoo-ins. He also ranks seventh all-time in both completions and touchdown passes

All of that counts for something, and it could tip the scales for those who need more than just the two Super Bowl performances to be convinced that he's Canton material. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 29:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)   Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants walks on the field after a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on December 29, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Eagles
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

There's really no definition of the term "Hall of Famer." It's a subjective process, and the criteria differ from fan to fan, voter to voter, pundit to pundit. 

For what it's worth, NJ.com's Ryan Dunleavy polled the majority of Hall of Fame voters on Manning's candidacy in the fall. Eleven said they'd vote for Manning, 10 opposed him, nine were undecided and nine declined to reveal how they felt. That could make it hard for Manning to hit the 80 percent threshold when he becomes eligible in five years, but few are suggesting he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. 

It doesn't help that Manning's twilight was painful, which is fresh in our memories. He went to just one Pro Bowl after 2012, and the Giants had losing records in five of his final six years as a starter. But eventually, that recency bias will fade.

Memories of Super Bowls XLII and XLVI never will.

Manning to David Tyree and Manning to Mario Manningham will be played over and over, in and out of New York, year after year, for the rest of your and my life. And one day, Hall of Fame voters will have seen enough. One day, they'll realize that Manning's inferior rate-based numbers oughta be trumped by the fact that his accomplishments deserve their own chapter in the NFL's history book. 

That seems like an appropriate definition of "Hall of Famer."

              

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter. Or don't. It's entirely your choice. 

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