Giants quarterback Eli Manning holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after...

Giants quarterback Eli Manning holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after his victory in Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Feb. 5, 2012. Credit: newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara


Eli Manning’s legacy is on the clock.

The minute the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2024 at NFL Honors on Thursday night, the names of the players who will be eligible for the first time in 2025 began to circulate. Ol’ number 10’s name appeared at the top of most of those lists.

At the Pro Bowl last weekend, Manning may have unwittingly made the best campaign commercial you’ll see from anyone up for any election in the next 12 months. Naturally, it came in the form of a rap. In a viral video that came out in which he spits some verse for the NFC team he coached at the event, Manning crows, to the delight of everyone: “I’m Eli Manning / I’m nice / Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. / Sike! I beat him twice!”

Throw in the fact that next year’s Super Bowl — and Hall of Fame announcement — will take place in Manning’s hometown of New Orleans, and the outside possibility that Tom Coughlin, the coach who won those two Super Bowls with Manning, also might find his way into enshrinement, and there might be a giant Giants party at the big game no matter how the franchise’s upcoming 100th season winds up. From a New York narrative standpoint, all the planets are aligning.

But hold your Mardi Gras float just a minute.

While Manning certainly will be the most decorated and highest-profile quarterback on the ballot the committee considers throughout the coming months, he’s not going to be the slam dunk candidate some might consider him to be.

The Hall hasn’t enshrined a quarterback since Peyton Manning in 2021. That means fellow two-time Super Bowl champ Jim Plunkett along with others such as Joe Theismann, Ken Anderson, Earl Morrall and even Phil Simms have been waiting patiently on the fringes of Canton.

Eli Manning was the quarterback for a series of Hall of Fame-worthy moments, the kind of plays that will get rewound and replayed every year around this time as long as football exists, but his overall career numbers are far less impressive.

While Manning played 16 seasons, including a valiant streak of 210 straight starts, he won playoff games in only two of those years. His career record as a starter is the definition of mediocre: 117-117. According to Pro Football Reference, the “average” Hall of Fame quarterback has won two championships (Manning has two), been a first-team All-Pro twice (Manning never was so much as a second-teamer) and had seven Pro Bowl seasons (Manning had four).

Manning may have won two Super Bowl MVPs, but he never received a single vote for the regular-season award.

Doesn’t matter, teammate Osi Umenyiora said, undoubtedly speaking for a lot of former and current Giants.

“You can’t quantify what that man was able to do,” he told Newsday on Radio Row at Super Bowl LVIII. “You have to understand what he was able to do and how he was able to do it. It’s not just about the record. The record is about the team. So ‘we’ were 117-117 during that time, but he’s a much better player than that record indicates.”

But to illustrate just how complicated Manning’s candidacy is, consider that the teammate who almost single-handedly — or at least single-helmetedly — first put him in the discussion for the honor isn’t so sure he should receive it so quickly.

“Not the first time,” former Giants wide receiver David Tyree told Newsday on Radio Row when asked if Manning should be enshrined next year. “I think he eventually gets in. I think Eli is a Hall of Famer. I personally wouldn’t say a first-ballot Hall of Famer, though, but there’s no shame in that.”

Honest Dave pointed out, as others often do, that it’s the Manning name and machinery along with Eli’s new career as an omnipresent ambassador for the sport that elevates his case. But it’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Famous.

“If somebody else had his credentials and he wasn’t Eli Manning, it might be way harder,” Tyree said. “I think his name and his fame works out for him. Playing in New York City and being a champion there should tip in his favor. But when I look at the Hall of Fame, it shouldn’t be questionable.

“If you look at the two championships, they were unique in the kind of Super Bowls Eli won, the fashion in which he won them, but when you talk about consistency, regular-season statistics, if I’m just being objective and not a friend, there’s a lot to want on the resume.”

The perplexing situation for Manning is that if he doesn’t get in next year, he might have to wait a long time to do so. Because the year after next, Drew Brees becomes eligible, as does Philip Rivers. The year after that, Ben Roethlisberger enters the conversation. It’ll be Brady who headlines the Class of 2028. At some point Aaron Rodgers will be eligible, too. Manning will be at the front of the line among eligible quarterbacks in 2025, but after that, he starts to slip backward.

It’s been a little more than 12 years since Eli Manning last played in a Super Bowl. It’s been four years since he retired and his number was almost immediately retired with him. He stands among the greatest Giants of all time not only in terms of what he accomplished but what he meant — and still means — to the franchise. The story of the Super Bowl cannot be told without mentioning his name.

It’s not up for argument that he had a hell of a career.

Was it really a Hall of a career, though? That’s the debate that is about to begin.

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