What makes a Hall of Famer? Rings? MVPs? Longevity?
I’ll hand this one over to Primetime himself.
When Deion Sanders was asked about Eli’s Hall of Fame chances, he said on NFL.com an opinion shared by many of those who don’t believe Eli is a Hall of Famer.
“Honestly, I’m not so sure what being a Hall of Famer means anymore,” Sanders said. “Football immortality used to be reserved for players who redefined their position, made a big impact on the game or dominated their position for a period of time.”
Longtime New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has finally called it a career after 16 NFL seasons, all with Big Blue. At this point, it’s understood that eventually, he will make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But when he does, it’s going to lower the standard of what being a Hall of Famer really is, forever.
So what’s the main case for him getting a gold jacket?
First and foremost, he won two Super Bowls. Not only that, but he beat Tom Brady and the Patriots, something that at the time of both championships no one had ever done before. He was awarded the Super Bowl MVP award in both games (he played well, but you can’t give the award to the defensive unit as a whole) and is best remembered as being the arm behind two of the most iconic catches in not only Super Bowl or playoff history, but NFL history.
He also lasted a long, long time, making 222 consecutive starts over a span of 13-plus seasons. His longevity naturally moved him into the top-10 for a few all-time passing categories like yards and touchdowns, where he is No. 7 in each.
But that’s pretty much it. That’s his entire legacy. Eight great games and a bunch of average ones over a significant period of time. Great moments have value, but great moments alone don’t make a Hall of Famer. If we put in everyone who had a couple of great moments in their career, Canton would fill up in the blink of an eye. No, there’s a higher standard than fleeting greatness, so let’s go through Primetime’s criteria.
Did he redefine the quarterback position? No.
Did he have a big impact on the game? No, and the two rings argument isn’t good enough. Plenty of quarterbacks win Super Bowls, in fact, I believe one does it every year! If winning a second one is the arbitrary cutoff, then let’s put Jim Plunkett and Ben Roethlisberger in the Hall of Fame too. Multiple rings shouldn’t be an automatic entrance card.
And finally, the most important question in my eyes, did he dominate his position for a period of time? Not a chance.
Sure, you could argue that when Eli makes the Hall of Fame, he won’t be the worst quarterback in it. There have been quarterbacks who have been propped up by their postseason success before, but times have changed and standards for the quarterback position have changed.
Since 2000, 10 quarterbacks have been given a gold jacket: Joe Montana (2000), Jim Kelly (2002), John Elway (2004), Steve Young (2005), Dan Marino (2005), Warren Moon (2006), Troy Aikman (2006), Ken Stabler (2016), Brett Favre (2016) and Kurt Warner (2017).
When Eli joins them, he will easily be the worst of the bunch.
Of those 10, seven have won MVPs. Of the three that didn’t – Kelly, Moon and Aikman – they all-received MVP votes at some point in their career.
Eli never even made an All-Pro team, something that was also accomplished by seven of the 10 quarterbacks inducted since 2000. The three that didn’t – Moon, Aikman and Elway (yes, Elway won an MVP but never made an All-Pro team) – averaged eight Pro Bowls in 15 years. Eli made four in 16 years.
Eli also finished his career as the only one without a winning record, going 117-117. Only Moon came close to that, going 102-101 throughout his career. It wouldn’t be fair to single out one game as the difference-maker between the two quarterbacks, but Moon had other accomplishments on his resume. As mentioned before, while never winning the award he received MVP votes, even coming in third in 1990. He also won the AP Offensive Player of the Year award that same year, made nine Pro Bowls and led the league in passing yards twice.
The only thing Eli ever led the league in was interceptions.
Let’s focus on that for a second. He’s not the only quarterback mentioned here who’s led the league in interceptions. Favre, Moon, Kelly and Elway have all done it, sometimes more than once. But they have all also led the league in other, positive categories like yards and touchdowns. They were the best in the league at something other than picks.
The only thing Eli was ever the best at was throwing to the wrong colored jersey.
Let’s also look at who his induction going to be sandwiched by. His brother, Peyton, is essentially a lock to make the Hall next year when he becomes eligible. There very well could be no other quarterback inducted until Eli, but after him (or with him depending on the decisions they make this offseason on whether or not to keep playing) will be Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
Think about that. The next four quarterbacks inducted into the Hall of Fame will be three of the very best to ever play the game and then Eli. He is the no-brainer answer to the question “which of the following is not like the other?”
All of the Hall of Famers mentioned before were one of the best at their position when they played. Eli is easily outclassed by Peyton, Brees, Brady, Warner and Aaron Rodgers while strong cases could be made for Tony Romo, Donovan McNabb, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. I’d personally take any of the above over Eli in a heartbeat.
When Eli gets in, it opens the door for everyone mentioned above to also make the Hall of Fame, when really only the first group of Peyton, Brees, Brady and Rodgers should be inducted in the future. Otherwise, it becomes the Hall of “very good,” and honestly, when talking about Eli, it’s probably best to drop the “very.”
If Eli won the two Super Bowls in a market other than New York, like say, San Diego (just a totally random city that came to mind), or his last name was something other than Manning, he would have a much more difficult time getting in.
Eli should be enshrined in the Giants’ Hall of Fame, but not the Pro Football one. His name should go down forever in the Meadowlands, not Canton. Eli had great moments but he was never great.
Eli will be, but shouldn’t be, a Hall of Famer.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of The Associated Press.