Being in the tri-state area of New York has taught me a lot about how serious the expectations of fans can impact a player’s legacy. This great area has seen their share of sports successes and disappointments. The New York Yankees have won multiple championships over the past few decades, the New York Rangers and Devils had success both winning multiple Stanley cups in the 90s and early 2000s, and the New York Jets recently went to the AFC championship game in back to back years in 2009 and 2010. However the most recent championship for any New York team came at the hands of the New York Giants in 2011. That team was led by their long time franchise quarterback Eli Manning. Although he was the last leader to win a championship in New York, Manning has long been scrutinized by the city he forced his way into when drafted in 2004. Since then, he has won 2 Super Bowls against perhaps the greatest organization of these past two decades the New England Patriots. He has also been criticized almost every year outside of those two Super Bowl years for his play on the field. Of course, whether you agree or not, the curious case of Eli Manning will be one of the most debatable discussions for a player to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. So let’s discuss why this may be the case.
This past weekend, Manning led the New York Giants to a victory over the Miami Dolphins. His stat line read as followed: 20 of 28 for a staggering 71% completion percentage, 283 yard with 2 touchdowns, and of course 3 interceptions. Many would agree this is a typical Eli Manning game. He will throw some very good passes leading to touchdowns, however he often will have multiple interceptions a game. Currently as his career stands he has a 3 to 2 touchdown to interception ratio. This is not good. In fact every year where he has started the majority of games in a season he has thrown double-digit interceptions. He even led the league in interceptions 3 times maxing out at 27 interceptions in 2013. This is certainly hurting his Hall of Fame stock as people do not like seeing so many turnovers for an individual. Yet if we look closely, we see an Eli Manning whose numbers may be inflated. Let’s breakdown that 2013 year even further. During that year Eli Manning had 10 games where he either threw 1 or less interceptions. This shows us that Manning’s numbers may be hurting by a few very bad games. This has been the case for the entirety of his career, leading him to a 117-117 record.
Where Manning excels is his ability to outperform expectations when it matters the most. Manning currently has 27 4th quarter comebacks, and 37 overall game winning drives during his career. This is currently 10th all time for quarterbacks. He also has 4 postseason 4th quarter comebacks, and 5 game winning drives during his two super bowl runs. During these postseason victories he has accounted for 7 touchdowns to only 1 interception, and has put over 250 yards passing in 4 out of the 5 of them. In his two super bowl victories he completed two memorable throws during the game winning drives that sent shock waves around the football communities. Put all of that with 4 years selected to the Pro Bowl, two Super Bowl MVPs, and an Iron Man streak lasting 210 games, you can see why individuals go back and forth between a player who conquered all odds and a guy with an average record.
So what is the criteria for being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Is it the guy who puts up impressive numbers but does not win the Super Bowl? Well it has happened in the past but it is not likely. Only 4 quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame have not won the Super Bowl yet appeared in the Hall of Fame. One of those is Dan Marino, who put up impressive numbers and held records long after he retired. Is it possible that a player like Manning deserves to be a Hall of Famer like Marino? Is the criteria the fact the Hall of Fame needs a quarterback to be a winner to be placed in the Hall of Fame? Well both Sonny Jurgensen and Joe Namath are in with losing records, so why can’t Manning? Well what about touchdown to interception ratio, would a quarterback in the Hall of Fame need to have minimal interceptions? Well with 11 quarterbacks who have more interceptions that touchdowns, should Eli Manning be included in the Hall of Fame? To me it is a clear yes to all these questions. Eli has all the making of a Hall of Fame quarterback. The curious case has just been solved.