Eli Manning and the Hall of Fame: The case for and against

The Giants can retire Eli Manning’s No. 10 jersey and add him to their Ring of Honor today with no objections.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame faces a much more complicated case when judging Manning’s greatness now that the case is closed on his career. Maybe the most nuanced argument the current panel ever has seen, as one voter told The Post.

Manning retired Wednesday after 16 seasons with the Giants. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has the championships, the statistics and the persona to deserve enshrinement, but he also has a lot of warts on his résumé. Here is the case for and against Manning and a look at where he stands with the decision-makers:

The case for …

The list of multiple Super Bowl MVP award winners reads like this: Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Bart Starr, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time in future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, and Manning.

So, how can he not be immortalized along with the elite company he shares?

Eli Manning had many highs and lows during his long career with the Giants.
Eli Manning had many highs and lows during his long career with the Giants.EPA: Charles Wenzelberg

The best four games of Manning’s career were the biggest four he played in: Two NFC Championship game overtime wins (against the Packers and 49ers) and two Super Bowls against the Patriots. During those two championship runs, Manning earned seven of his eight wins on the road or at neutral sites.

The history of the NFL can’t be written without Manning because his “Helmet Catch” completion to David Tyree and ensuing last-minute touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress in Super Bowl XLII ruined the Patriots’ shot to be the second-ever undefeated team and the first to go 19-0.

Manning retires ranked No. 7 in career passing yards (57,023), passing touchdowns (366) and completions (4,895), and he did it all in one uniform — unlike many of the greats positioned around him.

But the most amazing statistic from his career speaks to his durability: Zero career games missed due to injury, including 210 straight starts — the second-longest streak by a quarterback in NFL history.

The case against …

Manning was average in the regular season, as best evidenced by his 117-117 career record (not counting 8-4 in the playoffs). Of the 26 modern-era quarterbacks in the Hall, only two have a losing record — Joe Namath (62-63-4) and Sonny Jurgensen (69-71-7) — and most have a winning percentage way over .500.

Manning had a 78-57 record the night he won Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012, which means longevity worked against him. Exactly the opposite of a compiler.

But it would not be unprecedented to leave out a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Jim Plunkett is alone in that category now and does not garner much support in the vote these days.

Because he played in the golden age of contemporaries, Manning made just four Pro Bowls, never was named an All-Pro and only led the Giants to the playoffs six times in 16 seasons, so it’s difficult to say he ever was a top-five active quarterback. His career passer rating of 84.1 is tied for No. 45 all-time.

Was he better than brother Peyton, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady? Definitely not. How about Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan? Maybe. There is his competition.

Where he stands …

Manning needs help during the five-year waiting period before nomination.

When I worked for NJ Advance Media in September 2019, I surveyed 30 of the 48 members on the Hall of Fame’s selection committee (with an offer of anonymity) to see if Manning had the votes. It remains the most definitive look at Manning’s credentials because actual voters contributed.

The responses included 11 “yes,” 10 “no” and nine “undecided.” Even if all the undecided and the 18 non-participants vote yes, Manning falls one vote short of the 80 percent threshold needed for induction. So, he either needs a voter change of opinion or a replacement seat on the committee.

“I will vote for Eli Manning first ballot,” ESPN’s Sal Paolontonio said. “He was great when it counted the most. Manning has the top-flight passing numbers and the magnificent durability to cement his legacy of greatness. He has been a great ambassador for the game and team he represents. He is a Hall of Famer.”

As another voter put it, “While he’s never led the league in yards passing, touchdowns or passer rating, he has led it in interceptions. Three times. But the clincher is that he’s never been an All-Pro. Not once. Which means he’s not been considered among the elite at his position, and that’s what the Hall of Fame is all about.”

Will time be Manning’s friend or foe? It will be a long five-year debate.

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