Alright. It has been a while since Eli retired and the HoF debates have largely settled into background noise again since he’s out of the public consciousness for now. However, I still always wanted to make a big post about this, separate from the retirement post, because I know for a fact it’s a hot topic for discussion and always brings the comments out. People got opinions!

Nobody in the history of football is going to be more hotly debated for the hall than Eli already is. The debate started back after he won his second super bowl and it has only increased in volume since, and the past month after he stepped down might have been the worst it has ever been. I anticipate his first year of eligibility will be even worse, and we’ll still be arguing about it before we hit that point. So I wanted to put my personal piece out there for posterity. This is how I feel, right now, about Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame debate.

I don’t think he’s a hall of famer.

*is immediately dragged kicking and screaming into the streets by Giants fans who proceed to beat me to a bloody pulp*

Let me start off by saying that this doesn’t mean I don’t want him to go to the hall of fame. I absolutely do. I would love to see Eli in the hall of fame. In fact, if/when Eli goes in, I will be a merciless troll to everyone who is mad about it. It will be one of the best days I have in my life and I will make everyone angry about his induction even angrier. The sheer thought of how much of a pest I will be brings me untold joy, even right now. I want Eli Manning in the hall extremely badly.

But I don’t think he quite deserves it.

Eli has several arguments to his name that I think are unignorable, no matter how much the spreadsheet types will try to do that very thing. In fact, part of the reason I want Eli in the hall is just to stick it to these nerds, because these numbers people get get so frothing mad at the mere idea of Eli in the hall of fame that it literally breaks their brains and they don’t even make good arguments. Eli Manning is not comparable to Nick Foles outside one very specific element of their respective careers. Just imagine how hilariously mad people like this will get if Eli goes in. It’ll be a fucking party and I’m the DJ.

The fact is, narrative matters. Legacy matters. Championships matter. The hall of fame is not just numbers. It reaches farther than that. When we read about the history of the NFL, the legacies of players, the stories and myths that the sport cultivates…it’s not about the numbers. Kids don’t go to the hall of fame, walk past the exhibits, and gape in awe at Tom Brady’s passing yard totals. Career passing percentage does not give football it’s mythical power. Legacy does. The myths and legends and legacy of football are built off stories like Eli Manning. To me, this might genuinely be the most important aspect to anything in sports. Athletes are our mythical heroes. TD totals are only really relevant in relation to their play era, but stories like 2007’s run will never age. To write this off, to ignore this, to pretend this doesn’t matter, is fucking moronic. Everyone who dismisses this aspect of the debate deserves to be pantsed and shoved into a locker.

Eli has the legacy part of the debate locked up. He was a mythical figure important to the story of the league in multiple ways. His draft legacy. His super bowl runs. His iron-man streak. His goofy face. His weird personality. His work in the community. It’s all there. If this was all that mattered, he’d be a lock.

But the numbers side of the argument still exists, and it is still important. And frankly it isn’t in Eli’s favor. The parts that are (7th all time in passing yards, 7th all time passing TDs, single season playoff passing yards leader – 2011, 4th quarter passing yards record in 2011, The iron man streak, being relatively high on multiple other career totals lists) are not particularly strong, and Eli will only slip down these lists in the coming years as multiple players still active are right behind him. In 5 years, changes to offensive output will likely outpace him as well, and these numbers will be less glamorous. His only true season leading stat in any category was a negative one: interceptions. 3 times.

But again, the numbers aren’t what is most important here. What I think the ultimate argument against Eli happens to be is also kind of a legacy argument. He was never really the best. Not even for a season.

Eli had good years and bad years, and his final 6 years in a depleting and dysfunctional franchise did him zero favors (and shouldn’t be held against him as much as they are), but he was never really good enough to elevate the team anyway. His best seasons were still not the top, and if you looked back on “Top 5 QB” lists for any given year, Eli will never be among them, outside maybe one single season – 2011. His unquestioned best year, and the big season that pro-Eli HoFers will always quote because it is sadly all they have.

But in 2011, despite passing for almost 5,000 yards, putting up record 4th quarter TD passes, and playing his absolute ass off to drag a mediocre team to glory, his season was still not the top. Matthew Stafford, a player who has never won a playoff game, threw for more passing yards that year. Aaron Rodgers had arguably the best season a QB has ever had and was named MVP. Brees and Brady also threw for more yards than Manning did, and a multitude of players had more TDs on the season. Keep in mind that again, this is the season easily quoted as Eli’s best and if he hadn’t won the super bowl I’m not sure anyone would remember it.

Eli was just never really in the discussion for the best QB of any year he played. He never sniffed an MVP or offensive player of the year trophy. He never got an all-pro nod. He never played consistently well enough, even at his peak. We can’t just ignore this. In the face of this argument I simply see no real rebuttal that doesn’t sound like a reach. For me this is the smoking gun that even as an Eli fan for life, keeps him out. I hate Deion Sanders with a passion, but I think even in his bullshit he has a point that the hall shouldn’t be for players that are so questionable. The fact that there even is such a debate around Eli is honestly kind of the final nail in the coffin.

I think a lot of Giants fans, whether they can admit it or not, secretly agree with me. But it’s not something that will ever be accepted among the fanbase because frankly this is just another battle in the long line of Eli defense that we have been playing his whole career. Eli was a hero to a lot of us, and in some ways I think that Eli reaching the hall will somehow validate our love for the man against the wave of negativity and hate he got from pundits, trolls, and stats nerds. Eli was our boy, and him getting into the hall means we backed the right horse and were right all along, you see. In summation, it is just us rooting for our boy in the face of adversity again, the same way we always have. The reality is it doesn’t really matter if Eli makes it, because he’s not going to stop being our boy if he doesn’t go in. No matter what happens, the man is a Giants legend forever, and we were lucky to have him.