Eli Manning is going to the bench. But is he going to the Hall?
Frankly, I don't know. What I do know is that it's no sure thing. And it could be tougher than you think.
Sure, Manning will be in the conversation. And he should be. He won two Super Bowls. He was a two-time Super Bowl MVP. And he and the New York Giants pulled off one of the most memorable upsets in NFL history when they shocked unbeaten New England in Super Bowl XLII.
That’s the good.
The bad is that since winning Super Bowl XLVI he’s been overwhelmingly underwhelming – going to the playoffs once in the past seven years and producing two winning seasons. He’s 47-66 during that time and 116-116 for his career. He never was a league MVP or Offensive Player of the Year. And he never led it in touchdown passes, yards or passer ratings.
But he did lead it in interceptions. Three times.
Which brings us to consistency. If there’s one thing that Hall-of-Fame voters value it's consistent productivity throughout a career. But the only consistency to Manning’s last seven years have been the shortcomings – both in his play and the play of the New York Giants.
Now let’s get something straight: Manning had Hall-of-Fame moments, with Super Bowl passes to David Tyree and Mario Manningham front and center. But Canton is based on more than Super Bowl moments. It’s based on a career, and too often Manning comes up short.
The proof: While he was named four times to the Pro Bowl, he was never an All-Pro. Not once. Which means he wasn’t considered among the best at his position in any of his 16 seasons with the Giants. And that’s more than an issue. It’s an obstacle that could keep him out of Canton.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is reserved for the greatest NFL players ever, and, if a vote had been taken after Super Bowl XLVI, Manning would have been a cinch. But his career has been in eclipse since, with the Giants in descent and Manning submerged in mediocrity.
Nevertheless, proponents argue that two Super Bowl wins should put him on the Hall's short list, and they’re right. But Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls, too, and he’s not in the Hall. In fact, he’s never been a finalist or semifinalist.
OK, but Manning was 8-4 in the playoffs. Yeah, well, Plunkett was 8-2.
But Manning was a two-time MVP, and that should strengthen his resume, right? Correct. Only five players have won multiple Super Bowl MVPs, and three of them are in the Hall. The only two who aren’t – Tom Brady and Eli Manning – aren’t yet eligible.
So that’s a plus. But Manning’s failure to be named to a single All-Pro team, not lead the league in yards passing or touchdowns, not be chosen to an all-decade team or be named an NFL Offensive Player of the Year or MVP will hurt him.
Of the 26 modern-era quarterbacks inducted into the Hall, only one was never an All-Pro ... and that was Troy Aikman. However, that should encourage Manning proponents because Aikman wasn’t just elected to the Hall. He was a first-ballot choice.
Of course, he also won three Super Bowls in four years and had only two losing seasons in his last 10 years with Dallas.
The bottom line is this: Forget the stats and awards and All-Pro nominations. The question is simply this: Was Eli Manning one of the game’s three or four best quarterbacks of his era? And I think you know the answer.
Which is why he may have trouble making it to Canton.
Follow on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF