Next stop Canton. That’s where Eli Manning deserves to be. That’s where he will be. If not on his first ballot. Then very soon after. It’s a no-brainer.
On Friday, Manning will officially announce he is retiring from the NFL after 16 seasons all spent with the Giants, offering an appropriate ending to a career worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Some might argue it’s a close call. I don’t think it is.
There are a number of reasons why Manning belongs in the Hall of Fame. He belongs because of the Super Bowls; not just the fact he won two, but how he won and what team and coach he won those two Super Bowls against.
Manning kept a team from a potentially legendary unbeaten season by somehow escaping a pass rush and finding David Tyree and then Plaxico Burress as the Giants beat the Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII.
Manning won the Super Bowl MVP that year and again in Super Bowl XLVI when he got his team in the end zone in the final 3:46 to beat the Patriots again, 21-17, in Indianapolis. He threw nine touchdown passes against one interception during four playoff games that season, a magical run that won’t be forgotten.
Two rings, two dramatic wins, two Super Bowl MVPs. If players are judged on championships and MVPs, then Manning belongs. He is one of just five players with at least two Super Bowl MVPS. Joe Montana, Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw are already in the Hall of Fame. Tom Brady will be.
But that’s not all. Manning, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft, gets in the Hall of Fame because of the numbers. He ranks seventh in NFL history in passing yards (57,023), touchdown passes (366) and completions (4,895).
Critics will say Manning was never the league MVP and was .500 as a starter (117-117). That’s true, but the Giants offense was never built around Manning being spectacular. That wasn’t his game. The Giants ran the ball and played defense. Manning was needed most when the game was on the line and a Lombardi Trophy was at stake. He delivered.
Most of those regular-season losses came later in his career when the personnel around him was either injured or inferior. Instability at the top of the Giants organization also has to be factored. The franchise is on its fourth coach in the last five years. The more meaningful number is that Manning is 8-4 in the playoffs.
Manning also gets into the Hall of Fame because he crosses off every other intangible you want from a Hall of Famer. Besides winning big games and putting up big numbers, Manning represented the Giants and the NFL in a Hall of Fame manner, and that should mean something.
He spent 16 years with perhaps the most high-profile job in New York and he did so with the type of professionalism you hope every athlete would model. He was the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2016 and one of the Giants most charitable givers every year he wore the Giants jersey.
Manning never invited you into his inner circle. But he was cooperative and cordial and those who were his teammates have never had a bad word to say about No. 10.
He comes from the first family of football and it would have been easy to act like he was better than the next. But every week was about preparing to play good football and not much else.
We celebrate Derek Jeter’s near unanimous election into the Baseball Hall of Fame not just because of his numbers and his championships, but also because of the way he carried himself as a Yankee and represented the franchise. We should be doing the same for Eli Manning in a few years.
For more on the Giants, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast: