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Eli Manning: How Elite Is He?

It is amazing how quickly and easily winning changes perceptions. The question about New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is no longer whether or not he is an elite quarterback. The question is 'how elite is he?' and, to go a step further, how high could he rise on the quarterback food chain before his career, which is really only around its halfway point, concludes?

Manning has wanted no part of talking about his legacy -- especially what a second Super Bowl title would do for it -- as the 2012 Super Bowl against the New England Patriots approaches.

"You don't think about that as a player. You concentrate on the opponent, try to keep your mind focused on the job," Manning said. "If you get concerned with other things that takes your mind off what your job has to be this coming Sunday."

There are really two parts to the 'how elite is Eli?' question. Part 1 is the 'Could he wind up being better than Peyton?' question? Part is is the 'Would winning the Super Bowl on Sunday make Manning a Hall of Famer?' Let's take a look at both questions.

Could Eli Wind Up Being Better Than Peyton?

The answer to this is 'maybe.' The window on Peyton Manning's brilliant Hall of Fame career is closing, and might already be closed if the nerves in his neck don't regenerate enough for him to resume playing. Eli's career is just reaching its zenith, and there are many chapters yet to be written. I think we answer that questions five, six, maybe eight or 10 years from now.

There are some who are already saying that a victory Sunday against Tom Brady, which would give Eli two Super Bowl titles to Peyton's one, would mean Eli's career had already surpassed that of his brother.

I guess there is merit to that argument -- two Super Bowl titles is better than one. If Eli can get that second one he will have family bragging rights, if nothing else.

Will that make him better than Peyton? Let me answer that by asking a question of my own -- are you nuts? Giants fans should love Eli Manning, he is the best quarterback in the history of the franchise. He is not his brother, however.

Have you forgotten how good, no great, a player Peyton Manning is? Have you forgotten that Peyton threw for more than 4,000 yards in seven of his first eight seasons -- something Eli has done three times? Have you forgotten that Peyton has 11 Pro Bowl appearances and five All-Pro selections to two and zero for Eli? Have you forgotten that Peyton is considered among the best half-dozen quarterbacks to ever play the position, maybe the best, and that until a few weeks ago many people weren't convinced that Eli was any good, much less elite?

Peyton's career playoff record is 9-10 with 29 TDs, 19 interceptions and an 88.4 passer rating. His career rating is 94.9.

Eli's career playoff record is 7-3 with 16 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 87.5, five points higher than his career passer rating.

It is fair to say that Eli has generally been able to raise his level of play in the playoffs -- and in his only Super Bowl appearance. That is something Peyton has not been able to do.

So, let's say this is an open-ended question at this point. Advantage Peyton right now, but Eli would appear to have lots of time to make his case.

Would A Second Super Bowl Title Make Eli A Hall Of Famer?

I am going to say 'yes' to this question. There are currently only 10 quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl titles, and the only eligible quarterback on that list who is not in the Hall of Fame is Jim Plunkett. Brady is headed there, and considering how much of his career is still in front of him Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger probably is, too.

Shooting down the Brady-Bill Belichick duo twice would be a historic accomplishment in its own right. If Eli gets a second ring I would be hard-pressed to find an argument that would keep him out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, especially when Bob Griese and Roger Staubach are in.

So, a nice little debate for a Super Bowl Week Friday afternoon. What do you guys think?

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