David Tyree and Mario Manningham.
Eli Manning’s name wouldn’t even be mentioned in the Hall of Fame discussion if it wasn’t for those two.
But when New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur decided to bench Manning on Tuesday for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, it signaled the end of Manning’s career and the beginning of this ridiculous conversation about his Hall of Fame candidacy.
“Eli was obviously disappointed, as you would expect, but he said he would be what he has always been, a good teammate, and continue to prepare to help this team win games,” Shurmur wrote in a statement released by the Giants. “Daniel understands the challenge at hand, and he will be ready to play on Sunday.”
Tyree’s miraculous catch in Super Bowl XLII and Manningham’s spectacular grab in Super Bowl XLVI gave Peyton’s little brother the best moments of his career, as they lead to two Super Bowl victories over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Eli beat Brady on the sport’s biggest stage, twice, a feat that Peyton can never compete with. Judging quarterbacks in head-to-head match-ups can be tricky, especially when so much of their success is dependent upon other players. No matter how good a quarterback is, he still needs his offensive line to protect him and his receivers to make the catch.
Football is the ultimate team sport, and both times the Patriots and Giants met in the Super Bowl, Manning was able to come away victorious while playing on the lesser of the two teams who just happened to be better that day. The 2007 Patriots finished 18-1, while the Giants were 14-6. In 2011, New England finished 15-4 compared to New York’s 13-7 record.
This makes you wonder how history would have remembered Manning without those two games and those two catches from Tyree and Manningham.
“I think it’s the right move but I also think you have to pause for a second and respect the way Eli Manning has handled this,” said Paul Finebaum on Wednesday morning’s edition of ESPN’s “Get Up.”
“The Giants blew it a couple years ago, they probably should have gotten rid of him then but they held on and Eli took a beating but he still has shown the epitome of class.”
Comments like that are the issue.
Hall of Fame consideration or discussions about a player’s production on the field should have nothing to do with how someone else views their demeanor, especially when Manning threatened to sit out the 2004 season if he was drafted No. 1 by the San Diego Chargers. And while the Chargers did select Manning, they quickly traded him to the Giants.
“Stay classy, San Diego.”
— Brandon Radcliffe (@BrandonWhatsill) September 18, 2019
“Paul just spoke glowingly about Eli Manning and he had been a dud for the last four years,” ESPN’s Ryan Clark replied. “You want to talk about bringing a franchise down? Eli has ruined that franchise. So we gotta take out how we feel about a dude because he’s a Manning, because we love him, because he gives us this, ‘Aw shucks you can do whatever you want to me and I’m going to be okay about it,’ [mentality].”
The segment quickly took social media by storm, as it turned into an example of how some in the media are trying to put Manning on a pedestal he doesn’t deserve just because they “like him.”
It coincided with a survey that asked 14 NFL experts if Manning should make the Hall of Fame. Per the results, two were undecided, three replied “No,” while nine said “Yes.”
I don’t get it.
Because while Manning is a part of an impressive list that includes Brady, Joe Montana, Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw as the only players to win multiple Super Bowl MVPs, everyone on that list has more rings than Manning except for Starr, who played in the first two Super Bowls.
The numbers aren’t on Manning’s side, either.
While the 56,537 passing yards and 362 touchdowns might be impressive, the 241 interceptions and 124 fumbles are not. Manning only won 10 games or more in a season five times and has an 8-4 playoff record. He’s also on a list with Jim Plunkett, Doug Williams and Joe Namath as the only Super Bowl winning quarterbacks without a winning record, as he’s stuck at .500 for his career with a 116-116 regular-season record.
Manning missed the postseason nine times in his career and went one-and-done in the playoffs four times.
On top of all that, he’s only been selected to the Pro Bowl four times in 16 seasons. In any other sport, a guy with only four All-Star selections probably wouldn’t make the Hall of Fame.
One thing we do with quarterbacks is compare them to their fellow draftmates. The 2004 NFL Draft gave us multiple future Hall of Fame worthy quarterbacks in the first round in Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.
And if you take away Tyree and Manningham’s contributions, the gap between Manning and Rivers/Roethlisberger expands even more.
For some reason, the New York tabloids have surprisingly taken it easy on Manning, as they’ve historically been some of his harshest critics. Maybe they feel bad for him and view him as a sympathetic figure.
But this is football, and the Hall of Fame isn’t about sympathy. It’s about production, something that Manning’s career lacked except for two games in which he got two really big breaks.
However, something tells me that Manning will end up in Canton one day. And if that day does happen, I hope that the voters also send a public apology to Terrell Owens, one of the three greatest wide receivers in NFL history, who had to wait on his enshrinement all because people didn’t “like him.”
All he did was catch nine passes for 122 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots after returning from a broken leg and a torn ligament in his ankle in a game in which he wasn’t even medically cleared to play in.
Now that’s Hall of Fame worthy.