Upon a conversation with a buddy about Eli Manning’s career, I decided to write about the career of the younger and more scrutinized Manning in light of him being benched. He has been absolutely terrible the last two years and I believe the judgement of some people has been clouded as a result. We were discussing whether or not the younger Manning should be in the Hall of Fame.
I conducted a poll on Facebook and I was actually surprised that 77% of the voters said he should be in. I think part of that stems from the fact most of my followers are from the Greater New Orleans area. That being said, I agree with the majority here.
This shouldn’t be a debate. He absolutely should get in. However, I think it comes after a few years of waiting. As he should.
Unfortunately, he played in the most fruitful era of Quarterbacks that included 5 of the top 8 of all time including his brother Peyton, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. When he was at his best, he did a fair job standing toe to toe with those mega stars.
I look at 2008-2016 for Eli as his prime and peak years. It all started with the most improbable victory in Super Bowl 42 against the undefeated and juggernaut New England Patriots. After a pretty bad regular season posting an abysmal line of 3,336 yards, 56.1 completion%, 23 Touchdowns and 20 Interceptions, he turned it on for the postseason.
That led to his first of two Super Bowls and a pair of Super Bowl MVPs. He finished the 2007 season better than he started posting 854 yards, 60.5% completion rate, 6 Touchdowns to only 1 Interception in four playoff games.
From 2008-2016, he had five top 10 finishes in passing yards (including two in the top 5) and seven top 10 finishes in passing touchdowns (including two in the top 5). He made the postseason three more times which included another Super Bowl victory over the Patriots ultimately becoming the GOAT’s (Tom Brady) kryptonite.
If his career were to end today, Manning would have the numbers and playoff success to absolutely warrant him a ticket to Canton.
Tale of the Tape
Passing Yards – 56,537 (7th All Time)
Passing Touchdowns – 362 (8th All time)
4,000 Yard Seasons – 7
Playoff Appearances – 6
Super Bowl Appearances – 2
Super Bowl Wins – 2
Super Bowl MVPs – 2
Playoff Record – 8-4
As a point of reference for all of this, the common argument I hear is he shouldn’t be in because of the number of seasons with high interception totals. He had three seasons where he threw 20+ interceptions (2007, 2010, 2013).
In the same breath, fans and analysts will herald Brett Favre to him being such a gamer, which also led to high interception totals. For the record, Brett Favre is a first ballot Hall of Famer in my book. However, you can’t pick and choose the arguments here.
Favre had double the seasons of Manning with 20+ interceptions with six. He also had six seasons where his touchdown to interception ratio was 0.00 or worse. Eli did that once.
Again, I am not saying that Eli is even remotely better than Favre because the former’s ceiling was much higher and he is a top 7-8 QB of all time, period. My point is stop picking and choosing bad arguments.
While on the subject of interception totals. Breaking it down by year, I will benchmark where some of the five QBs I previously mentioned ranked during Eli’s 8 year high end run. That being said, every year during that eight year stretch minus 2013 (abysmal), his INTs were right on par with most of those guys especially Brees.
Take away those five QBs, the only other QB during that stretch who was definitively better was Ben Roethlisberger. Guys like Philip Rivers have similar number, but lack the playoff success. That matters.
So if you’re going to pigeonhole and knock the guy because he wasn’t the best of his era, then how you do you feel about the number of great running backs in the 90s and 2000s who are either already in the Hall of Fame or waiting to get in?
Some of the guys already in are Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis or Terrell Davis. Then you have guys like Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor, Steven Jackson and Corey Dillon waiting. Every single guy mentioned above (minus Davis) are in the top 20 rushers of all time. However, none were looked at as top 3 of their generations at any point in their career because of how crowded those backfields were, except maybe Davis.
In the 90s, you would probably mention Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas or Marshall Faulk before Martin or Bettis.
In 2000s, you would likely mention LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander and maybe even Clinton Portis or Larry Johnson would get mentioned ahead. Despite Portis or Johnson not being Hall of Fames due to short careers, both at the time were looked at as better backs (or at least it was arguable) than James, Taylor, Jackson and Dillon.
I don’t see a scenario where none of them get in. It may take some time, but they will get in as they should.
I believe the same goes for Eli Manning. He may not have been the best of his era and he shouldn’t be knocked for that when we are talking about the five of the best to ever do it. If even three of them played in different eras, we are having a much different conversation about Eli Manning. At the end of the day, if guys like Bettis or Martin can get in not being the best of their era even with top 20 numbers, so should Eli.