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Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer? Depends on your definition

Eli Manning

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

When the day comes to evaluate Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame credentials, it would be wise for the committee to remember something before riffling through analytics that might work against him.

Manning is one of just five players in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. The others are Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr – among the greatest quarterbacks in league history.

Winning should stand for something, right? Not necessarily.

Hey, winning two Super Bowls did not earn former Raiders QB Jim Plunkett admission and he was the MVP of Super Bowl XV.

According to the New York Times, among QBs who have started at least 100 games since 1990, Manning is not top five in any major statistic. His passer rating of 84.1 ranks 27th and 30 other quarterbacks have had a fewer percentage of their throws intercepted.

What’s more, Manning’s 117 career losses – he ends his career 117-117 – are second-most in N.F.L. history to Vinny Testaverde’s 123.

Is Manning on par with Drew Brees, Brady, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Pat Mahomes? Would you put Manning into the Hall of Fame ahead any of those players?

Hardly.

“Honestly, I’m not so sure what being a Hall of Famer means anymore,” Deion Sanders told NFL.com. “Football immortality used to be reserved for players who redefined their position, made a big impact on the game or dominated their position for a period of time. The way the Hall is trending now, Eli will get in most likely because he won two Super Bowls. It won’t be because he embodied any of those three points while in the league. It is what it is, man.”

Still, although he may have come across as kind of goofy at times, and his play over the last few years certainly mirrored that of his faltering team, Manning proved over most of his 16-year career with New York Giants to be one of the most durable and dependable players of his generation.

On Friday at MetLife Stadium, Manning, perhaps the Giants greatest QB ever, the only one to win two Super Bowls for them, will announce his retirement.

“For 16 seasons, Eli Manning defined what it is to be a New York Giant both on and off the field,” John Mara, the Giants’ president and chief executive officer, said on the team’s website. “Eli is our only two-time Super Bowl MVP and one of the very best players in our franchise’s history. He represented our franchise as a consummate professional with dignity and accountability. It meant something to Eli to be the Giants quarterback, and it meant even more to us. We are beyond grateful for his contributions to our organization and look forward to celebrating his induction into the Giants Ring of Honor in the near future.”

Manning leaves having amassed a trove of personal accomplishments. He is the only player to have played 16 seasons for the Giants and his 236 regular-season games (234 starts) and 248 total games are both team records.

Eli Manning

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Manning also started 210 consecutive games from 2004-2017, which at the time was the second-longest streak by a QB in NFL history (to Brett Favre’s 297). Not once did Manning miss a game because of injury.

He came to the Giants in 2004 through a bit of chicanery from then-general manager Ernie Accorsi.

Expected to be the first player taken in the draft, Manning made it clear he didn’t want to play for the Chargers, who had the first pick. So Accorsi got together with the Chargers front office and arranged a deal.

The Chargers would take Manning and then trade him to the Giants for Philip Rivers, who New York took with the fourth overall pick to satisfy San Diego’s backup plan. The Giants sent Rivers, their third-round choice in 2004 (No. 65 overall), and first and fifth-round picks in the 2005 draft to the Chargers for Manning.

“I learned very early that you evaluate quarterbacks on their ability to win championships, and to do it late in a game when the game is on the line, that they’re able to take a team down the field and into the end zone to win a title,” Accorsi told the Giants website. “The second thing is to know that over a period of years, he’s always going to be there. Those kinds of quarterbacks always give you a chance to win, and for 16 years, he did that for this franchise. He won championships and he was always there giving us a chance to win. I don’t know how you can ask more from a quarterback.”

Manning threw the two most famous throws in Giants history, both in Super Bowls against the Patriots.

In Super Bowl XLII, Manning orchestrated a 12-play, 83-yard drive in the fourth quarter highlighted by David Tyree’s helmet catch, to this day considered one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history. Manning followed that with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining to give the Giants their 17-14 win over the 18-0 Patriots.

Four years later in Super Bowl XLVI, Manning moved the Giants on a nine-play 88-yard scoring drive made memorable by a spectacular 38-yard, over-the-shoulder grab along the sideline by Mario Manningham. That set up Ahmad Bradshaw’s one-yard TD run which provided a 21-17 win.

“It was an honor and privilege to coach Eli, and to go through the wonderful and magnificent moments that he and his teammates provided for all of us in the world championship seasons,” Tom Coughlin, who coached the Giants to those championships, told the website. “The New York Giants, flagship franchise of the National Football League, have four world championships. You have (Phil) Simms, you have (Jeff) Hostetler, and you have Eli for two. Eli Manning not only is the quarterback on those great teams, but he is the MVP of the Super Bowls. He’s an incredible big-game performer.”

Manning holds every important Giants career passing record. He is sixth in NFL history with 8,119 attempts and seventh with 4,895 completions, 57,023 yards and 366 touchdown passes. Manning also has the franchise’s highest career completion percentage (60.29). He was selected to four Pro Bowls.

Still, it was clear Manning’s time had come to an end. After being benched for one game by former Giants coach Ben McAdoo in 2017, he lost his job for good this season when Pat Shurmur replaced him with rookie Daniel Jones before Week 3.

Manning reappeared for two games after Jones sprained his ankle on Dec. 1. The highlight was what turned out to be his final home game on Dec. 8. Manning threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-20 victory over the Dolphins and left the game to a standing ovation with 1:54 remaining.

“A player’s entire body of work is weighed for Hall of Fame consideration, but like with everything else, some accomplishments have more merit than others,” Steve Mariucci told NFL.com. “Manning dialed up his very best football in the most important moments of his career.”