By Noah Cartwright Co-Founder
2x Super Bowl Champion and MVP Eli Manning announced Wednesday evening that he would officially be retiring from football. His 16-year career saw its ups and downs and every facial expression that could possibly reflect this roller coaster of emotion along with it. Throughout his career Manning’s level of ‘eliteness’ was a constant topic of discussion, and even though his playing days are finished there are no signs that a conclusion will be reached any time soon. More importantly, this will now be happening in the context of whether or not he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
I am here to get this conversation started a full 5 years early and explain why only one Manning brother will be getting a gold jacket.
Despite this, I have to begin by saying that I really do like the guy. He beat the Patriots twice, shutting the mouths of everyone in the greater Boston area for at least a brief moment – something that is always appreciated. He is known as one of the most genuine, all-around, good guys and great teammates the league has ever seen, the quintessential ‘locker-room-guy’ for a decade and a half.
He is entering the next stage of his life with an incredibly impressive resume, something that most kids dream of when they start their peewee careers:
- Two-time Super Bowl champion
- Two-time Super Bowl MVP
- Four-time Pro Bowler
- Ranks seventh in NFL history with 57,023 passing yards
- Ranks seventh in NFL history with 366 passing TDs
- Third-most consecutive starts by a QB (210) in NFL history
- 2016 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year
With that in mind, I write this not because I have a grudge against him or because I want to say that he was a bad person or inept player. This is far from the case. He was a solid player who had flashes of absolute brilliance, and knew how to perform in the big games when it mattered most. However, I am writing to stress that being good, and even sometimes great, is simply not good enough to earn a spot in Canton, OH.
At the heart of Eli’s challenge is the fact that it’s just not easy to get into the Hall. In the Super Bowl era, only 26 QBs have been inducted total, the last two were Brett Favre (2016) and Kurt Warner (2017). Favre was inducted the first year he was on the ballot, which seems to be a no-brainer. At the time of his retirement it felt as though he owned every single record a QB could have (402 of them to be exact). Not to mention his 3 consecutive MVPs and a Super Bowl win to boot. It took Warner, however, 3 years of being passed over to finally get enough votes. This is a guy who has a Super Bowl win, just as many Pro Bowls as Eli, plus a pair of all-pro team selections and an MVP and better stat figures almost entirely across the board. It took him 3 tries when there was no competition, no other QBs even on the ballot.
A fair amount of my peers and the talking heads believe that Manning has a strong enough resume to sneak in if there are particularly weak classes up for induction with him. I can understand the logic that there are always years where HoF classes are stronger than others with the potential for a sneak in. The logic is sound, but there is no actual evidence of this. Look at the history. 3 years for Warner…with no competition. To make matters worse for Mr. Manning is that he will absolutely have plenty of competition. As years go by and Eli remains on the ballot, voters will realize just how out-classed he really is. The roster he is potentially in line with should have him shaking in his boots. You’re looking at names like Hasselbeck, Palmer, Brees, Vick, Rodgers, Brady, Rothlisberger, Rivers, Wilson, Romo, Ryan, Luck, Stafford, and Newton. And before you start drafting your email to me about these names, I’m not saying that all of these guys will make the hall either (looking at you Cam) but the point is that they will all be considered with him in and around the same time, and like it or not – the competition is fierce.
Looking more directly at Manning’s career rather than his fellow QBs, the picture being painted does not get much prettier. Manning’s best five-year span was likely the 2011 through 2015 seasons where he was selected to 3 of his 4 Pro Bowls. Despite it being the peak of his career, during this period Eli ranked at the top of only one category: interceptions. In the same span he was 7th in touchdown passes, 15th in wins, 19th in passer rating and 20th in completion percentage. This is during his BEST five years, not his worst. Name another Hall-of-Famer who is looking at the same type of stats.
Speaking of stats, lets check out some others:
- Manning played 14 full seasons and finished in the top 10 in passer rating only once (7th in 2011). Not to mention he ranked 20th or worse 6 times
- He never led the NFL in most major categories like completion percentage, touchdowns, passing yards, yards per game, or passer rating. Except, of course, interceptions which he held the top spot 3 separate times
- Manning’s 3.09 interception percentage ranks closer to the bottom than the top of his peer group (49th of 73 QBs who’ve thrown at least 1,000 passes since 2004)
- Here’s a fun one: He has 5 career games with 300 passing yards, 3 TD passes and 0 interceptions. That’s the same exact number that Jared Goff has. Jared Goff, who’s 25 and played in 206 fewer games
- Lastly, as everyone wants to point to the Super Bowls as being his free-pass into Canton, take a look at his other postseason success. In 12 of the 14 seasons that he was a full-time starter, the Giants failed to win a single playoff game
I could continue to find obscure stats and uncover evidence from game tape, but the case seems pretty cut and dry. Eli is a long shot for making the Hall. The Super Bowls wins are the pinnacle of achievement in the NFL, and they are something he can hang his hat on forever. But they simply do not outshine the glaring mediocrity that defined the majority of his career.
I’m rooting for the guy, I really am. The Hall is reserved for greatness. The best of the best. I urge anyone to prove to me what Eli was ever the greatest at – except maybe playing flip cup to celebrate a home win…
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