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Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer? Here’s one vote for “yes”

Let’s make this clear

New York Giants Super Bowl XLVI Victory Parade Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Of course I think Eli Manning deserves enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

If you have been reading Big Blue View for a while, did you really think I would have a different opinion?

I thought not.

There was a great deal of consternation around these part on Wednesday when a “no” vote post for Manning appeared. That wasn’t mine. That was the work of former NFL scout and ESPN columnist and current Locked on NFL podcast host Matt Williamson. I know the post initially appeared under my byline, and I apologize for that confusion.

Matt is a knowledgeable and well-respected voice among NFL analysts. He’s entitled to his opinion and encouraged by me to share it — even when it diverges from mine. All of the writers here at Big Blue View are encouraged to have their own voices, provided they back their beliefs with well-written, well-reasoned, well-re-searched and thought out posts rather than just emotion or venom. That’s not what we do here.

Shoot, if you have been around these parts long enough you might remember that I allowed a former contributor to post the ridiculous assertion that ex-Giants quarterback Kerry Collins belonged in the Hall of Fame. I knew he would get drilled for that, but he was passionate and laid out his case intelligently. Wrongly, but intelligently.

Anyway, back to Manning.

This is part of Matt’s case against enshrinement for Manning:

Manning isn’t a deserved Hall of Fame player. He’s had an excellent career, but not one that is Hall of Fame worthy. To go along with his 362 touchdowns, Manning has also thrown 241 interceptions; only 13 quarterbacks have thrown more and in three different seasons, no one in the league threw more than Manning. Many cite Manning as a great winner, but if quarterback wins are truly an individual stat, how can it be overlooked that he has won exactly as many games as he lost as New York’s starter. The Giants are 116-116 with Manning as their quarterback during the regular season.

This one isn’t as quantifiable, but was Manning ever one of the top handful of players at his position at any point of his career? Was Manning a Top 10 type of quarterback in his prime? Sure, but was he ever Top 3 or even Top 5? The answer to that answer is no.

Also, while Manning’s career passing stats are impressive, the game has just changed so much that anyone playing in this era drastically shot past great Hall of Fame quarterbacks from years gone by numbers in passing yards. Also, we shouldn’t overlook that Manning did zero as a runner. Of course that isn’t close to the most important attribute of quarterbacking, but not one defense that Manning faced was concerned about him beating them with his legs.

Winning two Super Bowls is tremendous and it is Manning’s strongest argument for someday getting enshrined. But this is a team game and the Giants won those championships at least as much with defense than with great quarterbacking. Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls. Also, while the Giants have won eight of the dozen playoff games that Manning has quarterbacked, in those games New York averages just 19.3 points per contest.

Manning has had an excellent career, but he has been one of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks over the past few seasons. He has had some fantastic and unforgettable moments and probably will end up with in the Hall of Fame someday. But Manning wasn’t one of the top players at his position this generation and really belongs in the Hall of Very Good.

Yes, Manning’s career record as a starter is an even .500. You know, though, how I feel about that. Quarterback is absolutely the most important position in football. In how many of those games, though, do you honestly believe Manning’s was the deciding factor — for better or worse? Twenty? Thirty? Forty? Not enough to make a real difference that overall career record, which is why I think judging a quarterback by regular season won-loss record simply isn’t a good barometer.

Hall of Fame voters likely won’t care, but I will always believe Manning was simply the face of the last few years of awful Giants football. He was part of it, but not the root cause of it.

Manning’s Hall of Fame candidacy is going to cause an interesting and intense debate. He’s not getting in on the first ballot. It might take a number of years. There will be some vehemently opposed. There will be others indignant at the idea some think he isn’t Hall worthy. It’s fascinating.

For me, you judge quarterbacks by what they have done at the most important moments of their careers — at those decisive moments when their teams need them the most. For me, Manning has always risen to those moments.

It’s why I don’t want to hear the “well, without those two Super Bowls he would be Andy Dalton” argument. You simply cannot discount those two Super Bowls. What the Giants did in those games, how big a part of those victories Manning was, who those victories came against and how big of a role Manning played in getting his teams to that point.

I don’t want to hear “Tony Romo was a better quarterback and he’s not a Hall of Famer.” Maybe in Week 7 when there was no real pressure, sure. When it mattered, though? Give me Manning.

Don’t tell me, well, he’s only among all-time leaders in so many passing categories because of how long he played. Doesn’t lasting 16 years — long than any player in franchise history — and never missing a start because of an injury count for something? If you believe what we’re always told, that the best ability is availability, then maybe Manning is the quarterback every team should have wanted for the last 16 years. Because, whether or not he was the best, he was the only one who showed up every week. He certainly represented the Giants franchise in the way every quarterback, and really every player, should represent their employer.

So, yes, Manning would have my vote for the Hall of Fame.


Does Eli Manning deserve to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

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