The conversation about Eli Manning's legacy sure has evolved quickly.
It started after Manning declared before this season that he considered himself an "elite" quarterback. It was a self-evaluation that, at the time, provoked snickers among many fans and football pundits. A few months later, no one is laughing.
After Manning guided the Giants to the NFC Championship, a new question emerged: Has Eli surpassed big brother Peyton as the better quarterback? That question is still being debated.
But now, after the Giants beat the Patriots in the big game, some are weighing the Giants quarterback against the ultimate bar: Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer?
No way, says former NFL star Kurt Warner.
In an interview with Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 620 in Phoenix, Warner said that Manning's postseason success alone does not qualify as entry into Canton.
"I know we put a lot of weight on championships, and rightfully so," Warner said. "But championships are won as a team, and I'm fully convinced of that. You never see one guy -- a great player, great quarterback -- carry a team through the playoffs and into a Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl that way. I've never seen it. You know even in that game [Super Bowl XLVI], it's 21-17. That's the game. There wasn't a quarterback just up and down the field carrying the team."
It should be noted that Warner spent the 2004 season with the Giants - and was benched in favor of Manning midway through the season. So could his current assessment be a product of lingering resentment? It's possible. But Warner makes valid points about Eli the postseason maestro vs. Eli the ho-hum regular season QB.
"He's had two great playoff runs, or his team has had two great playoff runs," Warner said. "But I also look at the rest of his career. I mean, he has an 82 . . . quarterback rating throughout his career. You know, he's had five of his eight seasons where he has thrown 16 interceptions or more. His completion percentage on his career is 58 percent. To me, those aren't Hall of Fame numbers and by that I mean every time you step on the field you're a game changer, you're a difference maker. And I don't believe Eli Manning has been that guy until this year. I think this year is the first time in his career when he's become that guy."
Warner went on to say that if Manning puts up five more seasons comparable to what he did this year, he will be Canton-worthy. If not? He should be excluded for being "extremely inconsistent throughout his career."
It's interesting that Warner is the guy going public with his Eli Hall of Fame analysis. After all, Warner (who is eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 2015) has debatable Canton credentials himself. Warner only won one Super Bowl and though he began and ended his career at the top of his game (with the Rams and Cardinals, respectively), the years in between were not always pretty and often marred by injury.
However, Warner had a higher career QB rating than Manning (93.7 vs Eli's 82.1) and a better completion percentage (65.5 vs 58.4). Warner also has two league MVP awards to his credit.
So is Warner right about his assessment of Manning? It's too early to tell. The Giants quarterback is still only 31 and, barring injury, he has plenty of football left to make his case. But it's pretty remarkable that six months ago, people were scoffing at the thought of comparing Manning to the current crop of top QBs. Now people are debating if he is in the company of the all-time greats.