The end of a “Giant” career

Making the Hall of Fame case for #10 Eli Manning

My fellow Captains, did you know that Eli Manning’s real name is Elisha? The guy has been in the public eye for nearly two decades, and I’m just now learning that. I can’t be the only one, right? 

If you’re going to write an article about celebrating his career, you should probably know his name, no? Anyways, Elisha Nelson Manning IV retired from professional football on Jan. 22, 2020. Since the announcement, the talking heads of the sports reporting world have been ruthlessly and painstakingly debating (or really talking over each other) just how good Manning actually was. When it comes down to it, there’s really only two sides. You’ve got the “of course, he’s got rings, baby” side and the “come on, just look at him” facially ostracizing collective. Both sides have valid reasoning for either granting Manning entry or denial from the Professional Football Hall of Fame, but I’m here to tell you why you’re potentially right or wrong. Eli Manning is a Hall of Famer. 

First of all, he was the number one overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. I understand that being the number one overall pick doesn’t automatically make you destined for greatness (see JaMarcus Russell), but that fact does get overlooked due to all the drama surrounding that selection. 

However, to be a Hall of Famer, I believe you need a collection of indisputable examples for how successful you were, and being the number one overall selection falls into that category. 

Logically, the followup to that statement would be who exactly are those four other players. Bart Starr in the 1967 and 1968 Super Bowls, Terry Bradshaw in the 1979 and 1980 Super Bowls, Joe Montana in the 1982, 1985 and 1990 Super Bowls and Tom Brady in the 2002, 2004, 2015 and 2017 Super Bowls. All four of those other guys are Hall of Famers. I know Tom Brady isn’t eligible for the Hall of Fame yet, but let’s not even pretend that his entry is up for debate. 

Speaking of Tom Brady, Eli Manning twice successfully defeated him in the Super Bowl. In the 2008 Super Bowl, Manning and the Giants overcame the nearly impossible task of bringing down the peak of the Kraft-Belichick-Brady unholy trinity. According to Odds Shark, the New England Patriots opened as 12-point favorites against the New York Giants. 

This monumental spread was due in part to the Patriots being the second team to ever finish the regular season undefeated and win all of their subsequent playoff matchups. In addition to the utter and complete domination put forth by the Patriots, the Giants entered the playoffs as a Wild Card team. In the Super Bowl era, no National Football Conference team who began the playoffs as a Wild Card team had won the Super Bowl. 

All these facts set the stage for what is widely considered both the biggest upset in professional sporting history and the best Super Bowl of all time. No, it’s not because Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers did the Halftime show. It’s because in the final two minutes of the game, Eli Manning slang the ball 32 yards downfield after almost being sacked by the Patriots’ Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green. 

It’s because on third down from their own 44 yard line, while down on the scoreboard, Eli Manning trusted Special Teams player David Tyree to make the catch of the century. In what has since been deemed the “Helmet Catch,” Eli Manning made the play that lifted the New York Football Giants to their third ever Super Bowl victory. That play is so iconic, NFL Films named it “The Play of the Decade (2000s).” It was so good, David Tyree had to up and retire after the catch. Nothing could’ve topped that play. 

So obviously you could argue that everything I’ve mentioned so far are specific moments in time. Sure, Manning may have had some spectacular playoff runs, but where is the sustained stability? Well, you got me there. Sort of. In a way, Manning was very stable. In fact, he was a little too stable. He finished his career with an even 117-117 win-loss record. Now this statistic pales in comparison to other Hall of Famers like the 186-112 Brett Favre and the 148-82 John Elway, but what about Hall of Famers like Warren Moon and Dan Fouts? Moon had a career record of 102-101, and Fouts similarly had an almost .500 record of 86-84. The point is, that statistic does not seem to matter to the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. 

Other than those two Super Bowl runs, he never won another playoff game. Okay, fair point, but the rings speak for themselves. Winning one Super Bowl is hard enough, but Manning did it twice. I’m sure New York Giants fans would’ve appreciated a few more shots at winning the Lombardi Trophy, but as far as individual achievements go, Manning’s championships should outshine his other playoff woes. 

Some of you other haters might mention he threw 244 interceptions in his career. Come on, really? Just look at the names ahead of Manning on the list. Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkenton, Brett Favre and, even Eli Manning’s big brother, Peyton Manning is ahead of him on the list. If you want to bring up stats, Eli Manning threw for 57,023 yards and 366 touchdowns during his career. That’s good enough for seventh best all time in both categories (Aaron Rodgers is three touchdowns away from passing him, but you get my point). Here’s another stat for you. Eli Manning started 210 games in a row from Nov. 21, 2004 to Dec. 3, 2017. That was good enough for the second (now third) longest streak of consecutive games started at the quarterback position in NFL history. Essentially, Manning played through countless injuries in his time as the face of New York football. 

He was rarely, if ever, in the conversation of who the elite quarterbacks of the NFL were. But how can such a metric be determined? What statistical categories are taken into account when deciding who’s elite? I have always been a fan of rewarding the players who win championships. Sure, individual award winning seasons are fantastic and should be celebrated, but the whole reason you compete is to take home the ultimate prize. Manning did it twice. I know it didn’t always look pretty, but Manning got the job done when his team, his organization and his fans needed him the most. In my personal opinion as a kid from Yorktown, Virginia, Eli Manning has done enough to be ingrained in the hallowed halls of Canton, Ohio. Not too shabby for ol’ Elisha.

~Matthew Morhiser, Staff Writer~

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