Is New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning a future Pro Football Hall of Famer? That question, like just about every other discussion about how good Manning has or has not been throughout his career, draws wildly differing — and often visceral — responses.
We have had this discussion a number of times over the years. We are doing it again today thanks to an ESPN Analytics study that gives Manning a 72 percent chance of being voted into the Hall of Fame once his playing career is done.
How did ESPN arrive at this precise percentage? It used the artificial intelligence of a neural network, which mimics the way neurons work in the human brain to answer questions and make predictions.
Here is what ESPN’s Brian Burke wrote in regards to the findings about Manning, who’s Hall of Fame case he justifiably termed “debatable.”
Beyond his two rings (including MVPs in both Super Bowls), he has impressive career totals and was one of the league's best passers for a four-season stretch, with Pro Bowl selections each of those four seasons. His interception rates are relatively high for his era, but stats like that haven't had much weight in the collective judgment of the voters, especially years after a career has ended and its lowlights slowly fade from memory. However convincing Eli's case might be in isolation, it might ultimately pale in comparison to his contemporaries, and a logjam of legendary quarterbacks could keep him out. The model only measures how well a career compares to others' in the Hall and isn't able to account for a contemporaneous glut of superstars, at least not yet.
Of course, another Super Bowl win would give Eli a 97.7 percent chance of induction.
Here is how I summarized my thoughts on Manning’s Hall of Fame chances when I wrote about them last August:
After the second Super Bowl title of Manning’s career I would have argued that Manning was on a career arc that would make him a near-certain Hall of Famer. After four playoff-less seasons, though, the case is much harder to make. The remaining arc of Manning’s career will, in my mind, tell the story. If the Giants remain mired in mediocrity, or worse, Manning won’t make it regardless of his individual stats. If the Giants become a consistent playoff team and Manning puts up big numbers, or if the Giants win a third Super Bowl with him at the helm, it will be hard to keep him out of the Hall.
Has anything changed since then? I believe so. His case for Hall of Fame induction is still a debatable, divisive one. I think, though, that the 2016 season actually helped it.
You can look at it now when it is still fresh in your mind and say that Manning didn’t have a great year. The Giants’ offense wasn’t good, and he was the leader of it. Years from now, though, voters will look at his 2016 numbers and see that they look pretty much like normal Manning numbers that include a completion percent one-tenth of a percentage point from his career best. They won’t matter at all in the debate.
This past season helped, though, because the Giants won 11 games and did get back to the playoffs. The fact that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won another Super Bowl helps, too. Each time Brady raises a Lombardi Trophy — five times so far — the fact that Manning was the MVP in the only New England Super Bowl defeats of the Brady/Bill Belichick era grows in significance.
So, is Manning a future of Hall of Famer? Whether he ultimately is or is not, my guess is chances are almost 100 percent that none of the information above has changed your mind. My other guess is that many of you have a strong opinion, whichever side of the debate you fall on.
(“Kudos” to NJ.com for the original find.)