Lawrence: Hall of Fame Parade

Drew Brees' historic career continues, while Eli Manning has secured his spot in Canton, Amy Lawrence says

Amy Lawrence
December 18, 2019 - 8:39 am
Eli Manning Giants

USA Today Images


What a weekend for a pair of "old dudes" in the NFL.

Drew Brees passes Peyton Manning in the history books (again) by throwing four touchdown passes on a near-perfect night to ascend the throne as pro football's touchdown king. For now. With 541 career scoring passes, Brees sits only four ahead of Tom Brady who also continues to chuck the ball into his 40s. While Brady may not believe this touchdown chase has the same mass appeal as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home run battle in 1998, to have the top two quarterbacks in TD passes still ACTIVE is a phenomenon the NFL hasn't seen since 1973. Once Brady passes Manning himself, he and Brees will be this generation's version of Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton.

Just 14 months ago, Brees leapfrogged over Manning in career passing yards. As Brees closes in on 77,000, Brady is second in the same category, trailing by roughly 2,800 yards. With both quarterbacks healthy and productive, with the Saints and Patriots competing for byes in the upcoming playoffs, it's easy to envision this duel in the NFL history books stretching through at least another season. Brees and Brady answer the retirement question the same way: they're taking it one season at a time, grateful to still be on the field.

What a privilege to watch this history unfold before our eyes each week! What a unique experience to witness these two future Hall of Famers boldly go where no men have gone before. Throw in Peyton's accomplishments, and this trio drafted within a few years of each other is unmatched. As contemporaries, they've pushed each other to achieve new heights. We may never see their success replicated, and they will all be honored with gold jackets and busts in Canton someday.

While it didn't take place on the national stage or receive quite the same fanfare, Eli Manning threw what could be his final touchdown passes in possibly his last game in front of the adoring legion of Giants' fans. He received a lengthy ovation when he was pulled in the final two minutes; he earned a game ball and delivered the locker room speech with a giant grin on his face. It was a fond farewell to a Giants' great whose career may end this month. And with the speculation about his future comes the debate about his Hall of Fame credentials, whether or not he deserves to be immortalized in Canton himself.

The number one stat highlighted by people who don't believe Eli Manning is Hall of Fame-worthy is the win-loss record. Since the Giants ended their losing skid last weekend, his career mark is now 117-117, dead even. Or as some label it: mediocre. But QB winning percentage is a misleading stat. Yes, it's the most impactful position on the field, but football is still a team sport. Quarterbacks are standing on the sidelines for half the game! Why don't we keep track of wins and losses for offensive linemen or kickers?? Without a solid O-line, an above average QB can look inept. When a kicker shanks a field goal with time running out, that loss becomes part of the QB's body of work. It's an odd way to dismiss Eli's credentials.

While peering at his stats, why not consider his 16 seasons in which he never missed a start because of injury?? Eli's longevity and durability set him apart from the bulk of NFL QBs. His streak of 210 consecutive starts is surpassed by only two others in history: Brett Favre (297) and Philip Rivers (currently at 221). Along the way, Eli has climbed into the top ten in career passing yards (57,023) and passing touchdowns (366). Seventh all-time in both categories, he's ahead of Hall of Famers like John Elway and Warren Moon.

When it comes to game-winning drives, Eli Manning ranks in the top ten with 37 to his credit, more than Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton, Jim Kelly, and Joe Montana. Eli also sits in the top 15 all-time with 27 career fourth-quarter comebacks. His statistics aren't simply a product of his longevity. His impact on the field is preserved among the sport's greats. Putting him over the top are the Super Bowl MVP awards. While fans point to a pair of "lucky" completions to David Tyree and Mario Manningham, Eli's body of work in the 2007 and 2011 postseasons is validation. In eight games, he amassed more than 2,000 yards with 15 TDs and just two interceptions. Neither the Super Bowls nor Eli's role in those titles are flukes. Only a dozen quarterbacks in history own multiple championship rings, and Eli Manning is a among them.

Character and leadership aren't requirements for the Hall of Fame, though in Eli's case, they bolster his case. The consummate professional, he always puts the Giants and his teammates first, ahead of personal achievements or accolades. He never changes, no matter the circumstances. He's not a diva who needs to be the center of attention. Eli's locker is where controversies and distractions go to die. And when he was benched in September for rookie Daniel Jones, he handled the disappointment with class and grace and humility. Throughout the season, he's done his best to support, teach, and encourage the guy who took his job. No wonder his team and the fan base love him. Eli is a model ambassador for the Giants and the league.

There is more than one road that leads to the Hall of Fame, more than one way to earn a place in Canton's hallowed shrine. No, Eli Manning didn't take the same path as Brees or Brady or his older brother. But in his own right, he deserves to be there. We don't have to call Eli "elite," and we don't have to refer to him as a generational quarterback. But we WILL have to call him a Hall of Famer.

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.