Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer? The age old question. It seems this question has been swirling around the football stratosphere since early 2008, resurfacing again four years later. The debate rages on with every touchdown pass, with every interception thrown. Manning, 36, enters 2017 in his 14th season in the NFL, staring down the home stretch of the back 9.
Being a self confessed die-hard Eli Manning fan, I’ve tended to avoid any articles or twitter polls discussing this very question, rolling my eyes and thinking “of course he is”. With the recent drafting of potential replacement Davis Webb, I have had to accept the fact that Manning is indeed mortal and won’t be wearing blue for much longer. This has led to me having an urge to explore the question; Will he be wearing gold?
But what makes a quarterback a Hall of Famer? What sets them apart from the multitude of quarterbacks that start each and every week on Sundays? First and foremost there are the stats; Passing yards, Touchdowns, Completion percentage, Winning percentage should all be high up on the Hall of Famer’s résumé. Of course, every player plays for one thing only, to win the greatest prize of all, the Superbowl. There is much debate as to whether Superbowl wins should contribute to Hall of Fame credentials or not, due to Football being a team sport, but there is no question that the quarterbacks play an important role in any Superbowl victory.
So where does Eli Manning stack up in terms of stats…
*For those wondering, the (+) next to each name means they are in the Hall of Fame
Eli currently sits 8th all-time in terms of career passing yards, fellow 04′ draftee’s Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers sit 10th and 12th respectively. The reason I’ve mentioned these two quarterbacks is that their names are constantly brought up when anyone discusses Eli’s Hall of Fame credentials. For some reason it’s absurdity to even suggest that all three can make it to Canton. Therefore their whole careers have been compared, ever since the draft in 2004. In terms of where Eli could end up on this list, let’s assume he’ll play 3 more seasons after 2017, as he stated himself he feels he can play until he’s 40. Eli hasn’t thrown under 4,000 yards in the Ben McAdoo era, so averaging that over the next 4 seasons would land Eli above Dan Marino in 5th place all-time.
In my opinion, passing yards doesn’t suggest a Hall of Fame career, it merely represents a lot of games played. But this leads me to a statistic that gets severely overlooked. Games Started and Consecutive Games Started.
Eli has started 199 games, which incidently is the current active iron man for consecutive starts for a quarterback. Manning has started every single game since getting the starting job in week 11 of his rookie season, on November 21st 2004. By comparison Roethlisberger (183) and Rivers (176) are both way behind in games started. Being able to start every single game should surely be the number one requirement of any franchise quarterback. The Steelers will look back at Big Ben’s career and see his biggest problem was staying on the field. Roethlisberger has only played all 16 games in 3 of his 13 seasons in Pittsburgh. Compare this to the Giants, who have never once had to worry about signing a competent backup, due to Mannings’ ever presence.
Following on from Passing Yards, lets take a look at career Passing Touchdowns…
Once more Eli leads the famous three, ranking 7th all-time in career touchdowns with 320. Again, where could Eli land on this list when it’s all said and done? Let’s say 25 touchdowns per season is the floor for Manning. 100 more touchdowns would once more land Manning 5th all-time ahead of Marino on 420. Comparing Manning to both Rivers and Roethlisberger, I think you have to look more at ‘who’ they have been throwing to throughout their careers. This makes Eli’s touchdown total even more impressive. Before the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr, Manning hasn’t had a true No1 wide out since Plaxico Burress (2005-2008) and 1 great year of Steve Smith. Amani Toomer and Victor Cruz could both be considered very good No2’s, but neither played at any long stretch with Eli. Jeremy Shockey was an elite tight-end during his spell in New York, but only played 4 years with Manning.
Roethlisberger has had a plethora of great catchers throughout his career; Antonio Brown, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, not to mention tight-end Heath Miller. Rivers? Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, oh and some tight-end called Antonio Gates.
Only 4 Pro Bowl appearances for wide receivers in the Eli Manning era (3 being from Odell Beckham Jr), compared to 7 for Roethlisberger and 2 for Rivers (8 Pro Bowl appearances for Antonio Gates). I know you should never say quarterbacks should rely on great receivers, but it’s hard to talk about Joe Montana without mentioning Jerry Rice…and vice versa.
The words ‘interception’ and ‘Manning’ seem to go hand in hand (as a family they have thrown over 500 in the NFL). Eli is infamous across the league for throwing passes to the opposing team, instead of his own. If you were to ask someone why Eli isn’t a Hall of Famer, they would probably say he throws too many picks and would point to the fact that he’s lead the league in picks 3 seasons during his career, so far. So Hall of Famers don’t throw a lot of interceptions? Wrong.
Only 3 of the top 10 career interception leaders of all time are not Hall of Famers (We can assume Peyton Manning will have a gold jacket in due course). Now I know that Eli plays in the ‘modern era’ of quarterbacking where playing defense, especially in the secondary, has become increasingly difficult to the point where its unfair. His consistency throughout his career has been problematic and some of his picks have just been downright abysmal. But interceptions can be a misleading statistic. Receivers can drop or tip passes, run the wrong route, or even bail on plays. And on the flip side, defenders are allowed to make great plays once in a while.
For me, throwing an interception isn’t an issue. It happens. Receivers drop passes, kickers miss field goals. What’s important is being able to forget about the pick and move on to the next throw. Manning has been doing that his entire career. He has the steel to throw a pick or even a couple, and comeback to make a throw the very next play, to drive his team down the field, to win games.
Manning for the Moment
You may have heard of Eli’s alternative persona, ‘Playoff Eli’. In both of the Giants Superbowl runs in 2007 & ’11, Playoff Eli threw 16 touchdowns for just 2 interceptions, 1 in each run. Eli is the only quarterback to overcome the legendary tandem of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick of the Patriots in the Superbowl. TWICE. Both times the Giants were heavy, heavy underdogs, but Manning and the Giants overcame adversity to dethrone Brady.
Below are 4 stats that show Eli is indeed the man for the moment;
Once again Eli is surrounded by and eclipsing, elite Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Throughout his career Manning has stepped up time and time again when it has really mattered the most. You can say what you want about his inconsistency, his interceptions, his average career QB rating, even his vacant facial expressions. But you can’t deny that he’s been clutch in the biggest of moments, making some of the most unbelievable throws. His pass to Mario Manningham in Superbowl 46. Game winner to Donnell vs 49ers. Manning’s Game-winning drive vs Broncos in 2005. And of course, the Helmet Catch in Superbowl XLII.
Okay, it’s easy for me to sit here and say Eli Manning is a Hall of Fame quarterback, I’m probably one of his biggest fans. But the evidence is there, if you delve deep enough, if you look beyond the high career interceptions, beyond the downright ugly plays. Manning is a 2-time Superbowl winning MVP quarterback. Not many players can say that, in fact only Joe Montana and Tom Brady can say they have more. If Eli wins another Superbowl ring, I think it’s done and dusted that he gets his gold jacket. If he doesn’t, I believe he more than deserves to get one anyway.