This Sunday, the New York Giants will take on the Baltimore Ravens as they attempt to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth time during quarterback Eli Manning’s career. Since taking over as the Giants primary starting quarterback in 2005, Manning has led the franchise to two Super Bowl titles and cemented his name in Giants lore.
From miraculously finding David Tyree downfield in Super Bowl XLI to leading another Super Bowl winning drive last season, Manning has been the center of many of the most memorable moments of Giants history.
Yet while Manning has safely solidified his place in the hearts of all Giants fans, does his resumé qualify him for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
The argument for Manning is that he has been one of the most clutch quarterbacks of his generation.
Manning won the MVP award in both of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl victories, a feat only five players in NFL history have accomplished. To go along with this, Manning has led the Giants on five game-winning drives in postseason play and another 23 game-winning drives during the regular season.
Manning has also been a symbol of reliability for the Giants, as he started 144 consecutive games, including the playoffs.
Although Eli Manning has come through for his team time-and-time again, aside from 2011, he has never put up stellar numbers during the regular season.
This leads to the argument against Manning.
Over the course of his career, Manning has only had a quarterback rating of 82.3 and he has had an interception percentage of 3.3 percent. In addition to these unfavorable statistics, Manning has only completed 58.3 percent of his passes.
Compare these figures to other likely Hall of Fame quarterbacks of Manning’s generation and he is slightly below the standard. Tom Brady’s interception percentage is only 2.1 percent, and Drew Brees and Peyton Manning both have an interception percentage of 2.7 percent.
All three of these quarterbacks have completion percentages five or more points higher than Manning’s and they all have career quarterback ratings over 10 points higher than him.
Even Ben Roethlisberger—who is a closer comparison to Manning due to his similar gutty style of play—has only been intercepted on 2.9 percent of his passes, has a 92.7 career quarterback rating and has completed 63.2 percent of his passes.
Manning does stack up better against quarterbacks with their names already engraved in Canton, but it is hard to give these comparisons much validity considering the changes in the game.
Rule adjustments that promote the passing game by granting quarterbacks extra protection and limiting downfield contact have allowed all passing numbers to explode in recent years. This trend has deemed comparisons between eras based on raw statistics relatively useless.
The question Hall of Fame Voters will have to answer is whether or not Manning’s postseason and late-game heroics are enough to make up for his lack of statistical prowess?
In my opinion, the answer is yes. The Hall of Fame is about honoring the best players of each generation. By coming up huge on the sport’s grandest stage multiple times, Eli Manning has asserted himself as one of the most valuable players of his era.
He even beat Tom Brady, who will undoubtedly be a first ballot Hall of Famer, twice in the Super Bowl.
Also, what separates Eli Manning from other Hall of Fame snubs like Ken Stabler is year-in, year-out consistency.
Stabler only had back-to-back years with an 80 or higher quarterback rating once as his team’s primary starter, and had a quarterback rating below 70 in five of those seasons.
Manning, on the other hand, has had a quarterback rating above 84 each season since 2008.
Stabler may have been playing under different conditions in terms of conduciveness to the passing game, but he still never showed the consistency needed to be a Hall of Famer.
Manning may not be the most consistent quarterback on a weekly basis but he has put together a string of reputable seasons.
In addition to all of this, Eli Manning still has time to pad his credentials. The Giants have seemingly developed a nice nucleus of both young and veteran players and should be contenders for the next few years at least. This will give Manning ample opportunities to conjure up more postseason and late-game magic.
Furthermore, part of the Giants’ nucleus of talent is a core group of young wide receivers who should help Manning improve his statistical numbers going forward.
Eli Manning's past accomplishments should be good enough to get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, especially once you factor in what he might accomplish in the future.
However, as strong as the argument for Eli Manning’s induction into the Hall of Fame is, the case against him is convincing as well. The strength of both will definitely make it intriguing to debate Manning’s true place in NFL history for the years to come and as his eligibility for induction draws closer.