ELIte Enough For the Hall of Fame?

Shortly before the 2011-12 NFL season began, Michael Kay of ESPN New York conducted an interview with Eli Manning asking him the now famous question, “Is Eli Manning an elite quarterback?” Without hesitation, Manning responded by saying he was in fact an elite quarterback, which drew a tremendous amount of questions, criticisms, and laughs from many in the sports world. Sure, Manning had won a Super Bowl a few years earlier and has never had a losing season since becoming the permanent starting quarterback for the New York Giants. Since that 2007 championship season, the Giants have had just one playoff appearance, a loss to the rival Philadelphia Eagles in 2008. Their late season collapses and inconsistent play led many to believe they were a mediocre team, and Manning was nowhere near the “elite” status of other quarterbacks like his brother Peyton of the Indianapolis Colts, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, or Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

The team started with a 6-2 record following a win against the Patriots in week nine of the season. However, their infamous late season collapses did not seem to be over, as they fell to a 6-6 record following week 13. In a must-win game against the division rival the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys, but followed it up with a loss to the Washington Redskins to fall back to 7-7.  If the Giants were to have any shot at the playoffs and for Eli to prove he was worthy of being called elite they’d need to win their final two games. When the G-men pulled off the near impossible and clinched a playoff spot, the question was now whether Eli was an elite quarterback.  By season’s end, he set a new record for fourth quarter touchdowns with 15, and had numerous fourth quarter comeback wins, He also had 4,933 passing yards, a stat which some may call elite.

The playoffs came, and Eli was perhaps more impressive than he had ever been in his career. The Giants had a dominant win against the Atlanta Falcons, and an upset win against the previous Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. Next, the Giants took on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game.  The Giants prevailed in a thrilling overtime win and were on their way to a rematch against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

The Giants once again defeated the Patriots, by a score of 21-17.  In the game, Eli completed 30 of his 40 passes for 296 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. After, setting new career highs, breaking the fourth quarter touchdown record, setting the record for the most road playoff wins by a quarterback, and winning his second Super Bowl, there are few who still doubt Eli Manning is elite.

Now that Manning is considered an elite quarterback, another question came into play recently. Is Eli Manning worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio? One of the first people to give an answer to this question was former quarterback and current NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner, who in his short time as a New York Giant was a mentor to Eli in his 2004 rookie season. Warner argued that although Eli has now won two Super Bowls, he is too inconsistent. Warner believes that in order for Eli to have a place in the hall, he must have a few more seasons as great as this one.  Despite Warner’s comments, some argue Eli has already done enough to make it into Canton.

Eli Manning is one of just 11 quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowl titles and is only the fifth player to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards, joining Joe Montana, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, and Tom Brady.  Brady is a shoe in hall of famer, and the other three are already in. Eli’s brother Peyton is highly regarded as one of the best quarterbacks of all time, yet Eli now has twice as many Super Bowl wins.  Joe Namath, the former quarterback of the New York Jets is thought of as the best quarterback in New York history, but he only won one Super Bowl. Also, Eli has a higher completion percentage, quarterback rating, more touchdowns, nearly as many passing yards, and far less interceptions than Namath had. Although they played in different eras, Eli’s stats are sure to improve. Some say he is hall of fame worthy now, others say not just yet, but in the end as long as Eli continues to be elite, he will surely find his spot in Canton one day.