Eli Manning's HOF candidacy is complicated: Are two Super Bowls rings enough?

It once seemed inevitable that Eli Manning would have a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When he won his second Super Bowl title and second Super Bowl MVP, he was just 32 and coming off his best NFL season. It seemed like there was much more to come.

Now, more than a decade later, three and a half years after the long-time New York Giants quarterback was nudged into retirement, Manning’s path to Canton is not so clear. With a little less than two years until he’s eligible, there appear to be more than enough members of the 50-person selection committee who are at least skeptical of his chances. Some think he shouldn’t go in on the first ballot. Some think he’s not a Hall of Famer at all.

"I think potentially it is a tougher sell than some others," said Newsday columnist Bob Glauber, a Hall of Famer himself who will be tasked with presenting Manning to the committee in 2025. "If you mention Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, you just have to say their name and it’s over. With Eli, you have to show that his numbers and his accomplishments are up there with the best of them.

"I think that they are. But I think this will be a long discussion."

It might even last for years.

The Case For Eli Manning

This is the reality of Manning’s Hall of Fame candidacy. He has numbers and accomplishments that will make him a no-brainer for the Hall for some. He’s still in the top 10 all-time in passing yards and touchdowns. He played in 210 straight games, never missing one with an injury in his 16-year career. And he’s got those two Lombardi trophies along with the two MVP awards that go with them, which he won with two dramatic drives in the final minutes of those games.

Still, Manning will almost certainly be one of the 15 finalists presented to the committee in February, 2025. But from there he needs 80 percent of the vote to get inducted. That means 11 "no" votes are enough to keep him out in any given year. And informal discussions with members of the committee over the past few years make it clear there are at least that many potential "no" voters — maybe more.

Of course, opinions certainly can change, and some of the votes might depend on who else is up for election in his class, too.

"I think with Eli, the further you’re away from his career, the better he looks," Glauber said. "This is why there’s a waiting period of five years. You have to let the dust settle and then you can take a clearer look at whole body of work.

"As you get further away from Eli, the body of work does speak for itself."

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Two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning talks through his draft night trade from the Chargers to the Giants.

Here are the facts that speak the loudest for Manning: His 57,023 passing yards and 366 passing touchdowns still rank 10th all-time. His consecutive games streak of 210 ranks 10th all-time, too. And he has plenty of other numbers over his 16 NFL seasons that round out his mostly-stellar resume, too.

The biggest selling point, though, is that he’s one of just 13 quarterbacks in NFL history to win two Super Bowl championships, and one of just six players to win two Super Bowl MVPs. Of the 13 quarterbacks who won two championships, seven are already in the Hall. Four more (Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes) are surely on their way. The only outlier is Jim Plunkett, who won two Super Bowls with the Raiders in the early 1980s, but otherwise didn’t resemble a Hall of Famer at all during his career.

And how Manning won those Super Bowls should help his cause. He did it with dramatic, game-winning drives and big-time passes in the final minutes both times. Plus, he did it against Tom Brady — a seven-time champion, five-time Super Bowl MVP, and generally considered the greatest quarterback ever. Brady and the New England Patriots were the dominant forces of Manning’s era. And Manning beat them on the biggest stage twice.

The Case Against Eli Manning

The flip side of his candidacy is damning. 

Manning’s career record is a very mediocre 117-117. That includes 9-26 in his final three seasons, when he was clearly on a steep decline. His career passer rating of 84.1 ranks just 60th all-time, which really puts him out of step with the quarterbacks of his generation, and even places him below the man who replaced him (Geno Smith, 84.8). Manning was never an All-Pro and went to only four Pro Bowls. Few consider him one of the five best quarterbacks in the era in which he played.

Those are all-time, Hall of Fame-worthy moments. But some do view them as only moments that stand out as outliers in an otherwise non-Hall-worthy career. The career .500 record hurts him. So does the late-career slide (he threw only 46 touchdown passes with 29 interceptions in his last 35 starts). And his absence from All-Pro teams and few trips to the Pro Bowl show that even amongst his peers — NFL coaches and players — he wasn’t always considered one of the best at any given time.

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Former Giants quarterback Eli Manning explains how he knew it was time to hang up the cleats following the 2019 season.

In fact, that might be his biggest issue. He played in an era with Brady, Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and of course his brother Peyton. Would anyone put Eli Manning in the top 5 in that group?

"That definitely hurts and impacts him, there’s no question," Glauber said. "I’m sure that argument is going to come up. It just so happened he played in an era where there were a lot of good quarterbacks. That’s the luck of the draw. But that argument will certainly give people pause."

That "pause" could be a huge problem for Manning if it keeps people from voting for him in his first year of eligibility. There is a solid group of potential Hall of Famers who will be on the ballot with him, like running back Marshawn Lynch, safety Earl Thomas, lineman Joe Staley, linebacker Luke Kuechly and kicker Adam Vinatieri. There are also always holdovers from previous years, which could make it tough for Manning to be one of the four to nine players who must be selected each year.

But, as Glauber said, "That first year may be his best chance" — at least for a while. Because after the 2025 vote, the floodgates open with his quarterback peers. Brees and Rivers are eligible in 2026. Roethlisberger is eligible in 2027. Brady joins the group in 2028. And Rodgers likely will be eligible a year or two after that.

Multiple quarterbacks can certainly be inducted in the same class, but it will undoubtedly get tougher for Manning when voters will be able to subject his candidacy to a direct comparison with those others. He could be in a situation where if he’s not selected on the first ballot, he’ll have to quite a while.

Closing Thoughts

"It’s a little bit of an odd dynamic," Glauber said. "If he does get in the first year it’s obviously better for him. He does avoid that backlog.

"But in the end, deserving people get in."

Usually. And eventually. And the legion of Manning’s supporters — especially in New York — are convinced he’s deserving, and that the selection committee will eventually see that too. But even though he might just be the greatest and most important player in the history of the New York Giants, he’s not a no-brainer to take his place among the immortals in the entire league. The debate inside the selection committee room over that will be long and heated.

And it’s a debate they might have to have over and over again.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.