On November 25, 2007, Eli Manning looked like anything but a Hall of Famer. On the heels of a four-pick performance in a 41-17 home loss to Minnesota, real questions were emerging regarding whether he should even get a second contract with the Giants.
Barely two months later, Eli became the Super Bowl MVP, fueled by one of the most iconic plays in NFL history in blocking the Patriots from going 19-0. Four years later, he did it again. That time, he made a throw for the ages, a full-speed needle threading from the shadow of his end zone to Mario Manningham that helped topple the Patriots, again.
After 16 years, Eli is calling it quits. And the Hall of Fame debate already has begun. (Hell, it began well before he retired.) And he will inevitably get in.
Earlier this week, I pegged the over-under on his number of tries at 3.5. I’m now revising that to 0.5. With five years for the case to be made, Eli has a very good chance at getting in on the first ballot.
And the reason is fairly simple. Apart from his accomplishment and setting aside the things that land in the “con” ledger, Eli has two things working for him: His personality, and his family.
The voters repeatedly passed over Cris Carter and Terrell Owens because the voters didn’t like them, plain and simple. (Ira Kaufman expertly managed the fact that voters didn’t like Warren Sapp to get him in on the first ballot, a vote that may have benefited in part from the criticism of the selection committee arising from the repeated snubs of Carter.) If voters will resist a guy they don’t like, they’ll also be inclined to support a guy they find personable and agreeable.
Then there’s the Peyton and Archie factor. Peyton already has made the on-camera case for Eli’s enshrinement, in a sit-down with DenverBroncos.com. Publicly and privately over the next five years, expect more of the same from Eli’s older brother and father as they count the votes, sway the votes, (if need be) stack the selection committee with Eli-friendly voters, and (if all else fails) cozy up to the guy who counts the votes. The Mannings have power and influence; if they’re motivated to use it to get Eli to Canton, they’ll get him in — possibly on the first try.
It’s really not that hard of a case to make. Lynn Swann got to Canton because of his exploits in Super Bowl X, and because of his membership on multiple championship teams. Other than coach Tom Coughlin (who also should get in), Eli is the only link between Super Bowl XLII and XLVI, and he was the MVP of both games. The fact that the Giants slayed the NFL’s dragon, twice, counts for something as well.
The Hall of Fame ultimately is about mythology, and the best myths feature an average guy thrown into the fires of grossly insurmountable odds and somehow prevailing. That’s Eli Manning, twice. That’s good enough for a bronze bust in Canton.