With deaths of prominent figures often come gushing obituaries that gloss over the warts, wrinkles and shortcomings of people’s lives.
Few are willing to criticize the recently dead.
The passing of Eli Manning’s tenure as the starting quarterback for the New York Giants received such treatment.
Effusive praise for Eli
The announcement that Daniel Jones is taking over Eli Manning’s job on Tuesday was followed by a flood of flowing prose touting Manning’s credentials as a sure-fire entrant into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Much of this praise arrived courtesy of respected, usually reasonable NFL reporters and opinion leaders touting Manning’s longevity and pair of Super Bowl rings as reason enough.
And while it’s right and proper to give Manning his due as a Giants icon and noteworthy figure in the history of the game, make no mistake.
Manning does not deserve to have his bust enshrined in Canton.
Is 2 Super Bowl rings enough?
The most-cited credential for Manning’s case is the most obvious one. He won two Super Bowls. This fact is being treated by many as an automatic qualifier for the Hall of Fame, as if Manning upended the top seed in the MEAC to make the NCAA tournament.
While an impressive feat, the accomplishment most definitely is not a ticket to Canton. Just ask Jim Plunkett.
There already exists a coveted award for winning two Super Bowls. It’s called a pair of Super Bowl rings.
What about beating Tom Brady?
But he beat the New England Patriots — twice! Surely stopping Tom Brady and the ever-loathed Patriots from collecting seven straight Super Bowl rings is reason enough to punch his ticket?
No. It’s not. And he didn’t beat the Patriots alone. The Giants anchored by a fierce pass rush and prudent game plan to pressure Brady beat the Patriots. The Giants scored 17 and 21 points in those wins.
Manning was excellent in New York’s Super Bowls and playoff runs and made some of the biggest plays in the history of the game. But those victories defined team effort, not brilliant runs by a superior quarterback.
Once we get past those Super Bowls and who was on the losing end, the arguments devolve from flimsy to disingenuous.
Quantity does not equal quality
One of the most repeated cases for Manning’s Hall credential to surface Tuesday pointed to his longevity.
For 14 straight seasons, Manning started every game at quarterback for the Giants except for his brief, one-game absence in 2017 when Ben McAdoo saw the writing on the wall and benched the declining veteran.
Again — that’s an impressive feat and something that should be celebrated, especially in Giants circles. But the Hall of Fame is about quality. Quantity only counts if the performance measures up. In Manning’s case it doesn’t.
Numbers don’t lie
Barring more starts, Manning will finish his career as a .500 quarterback with a 116-116 record. Aside from the two Super Bowl runs, the Giants never won another playoff game during Manning’s 15-season tenure as starter.
Compare his record to his most likened contemporary, Ben Roethlisberger, who also has a pair of Super Bowl rings.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 144-77-1 behind Roethlisberger and were regular contenders and playoff participants when they weren’t winning Super Bowls.
Pittsburgh was always in the mix. New York usually wasn’t.
Compare him to actual deserving Hall of Famers
Lining Manning up to the rest of his contemporaries does him absolutely no favors.
Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Brady. Eli Manning. Something here does not belong.
The first four names are true all-time greats and no-brainer first-ballot Hall inductees. The junior Manning is a zero-time All-Pro and three-time NFL interception champion with a career quarterback rating (84.2) on par with Joe Flacco (84.1).
If Flacco had another ring, would we be having this same ridiculous discussion about him?
Eli’s résumé consists entirely of two games
The bottom line is that if you take two victories off Manning’s résumé, this discussion wouldn’t exist. His overall body of work doesn’t resemble that of a Hall of Famer. And a pair of wins, no matter how big, simply don’t cut it.
But his name is Manning. He played a long time for one of the NFL’s glamour franchises in the nation’s biggest market. And his Giants twice defeated the greatest villain in NFL history.
These are all standalone accomplishments that are rightfully celebrated. But just because a story is a good one and an integral part of the NFL fabric, it doesn’t make it Hall worthy.
Canton shouldn’t be cheapened for the sake of a good story. Based on the noise surrounding Manning’s demotion, it sounds like it will be.
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