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Keidel: Is Super Bowl XLVI A Stairway To Canton For Eli?

By Jason Keidel
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Eli Manning is too modest to say it, can't throw the humble pie back in our pie holes. But under his calm, country cadence is a savage competitor who still hears the echoes.

Last summer, when Eli said he belonged in the room of regal NFL quarterbacks, led by Tom Brady, a conga line – led by yours truly – laughed him out the room. We aren't laughing anymore.

Despite stumbling to a 7-7 record this year, losing at home to putrid teams like Seattle and Washington, the Giants had another miraculous run in their aging bones. In six days, they are playing for the portal to immortality, particularly Eli Manning.

If memory serves, only Jim Plunkett has two rings and no bronze bust in Canton. So, the question is: does Eli Manning deserve Hall of Fame consideration if he wins his second ring? And does it twice against Tom Brady?

It's not a silly question. Manning just turned 31 and, considering his uncanny penchant for staying healthy (a trait shared by older brother Peyton until recent neck surgery), he should have another three to four very good years before him.

Considering his previous three years, Manning will reach 40,000 yards and perhaps 300 touchdowns. That, with two rings, should qualify for Canton. Sure, his completion percentage (58.4) and interception totals (led the league twice in picks and has thrown 129 for his career) are troubling.

But we can't be hypocrites: quarterbacks are judged by January. (And now, with bye weeks, February has slithered in.) And an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal makes a case that the younger Manning is whacking his way into the thin air of playoff greatness.

Quarterback is the most important position in team sports, for obvious reasons. And while a pitcher has a similar impact on a baseball game, he (at best) plays in 20 percent of his team's games (which is why I couldn't vote for Justin Verlander as AL MVP). Eli, though occasionally confounding with his dead duck throws into the wind, takes every snap and has become a monolith when it matters.

Brady, with his three rings and 16-5 playoff record needs no defense for the pantheon. Using a three-pronged statistical argument for quarterbacks with at least ten playoff games (there are 26 QBs who qualify), including won-loss record, QB rating, and adjusted yards per attempt, the WSJ piece argues that only six signal-callers improved each stat between the regular season and postseason.

Three of them (Bradshaw, Aikman, and Starr) are in the Hall of Fame, while another (Kurt Warner) should join them shortly.

Why mention this? Because Eli just became the seventh on that list. If Eli's Giants beat Brady's Patriots (again) in the Super Bowl, Manning will be 8-3 in the postseason beating an immortal twice in the process. (By contrast, Big Bro is just 9-10 in the Big Dance.)

Laugh if you like. Eli won't tell you to stop. He'll just show you why you should. Granted, if the Giants lose on Sunday, the argument is moot until Manning wins another ring. But the debate will begin if Big Blue wins, slowly building a stairway to eminence for Eli Manning.

Feel free to email me:

Would a second ring for Eli be enough to lock up a spot in Canton? Be heard in the comments below...

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