With any good Hall of Fame discussion, the benchmarks for inclusion are critical. In the next few years, we will see those benchmarks defined quite clearly for NFL quarterbacks. Eli Manning will retire this week, having spent his entire career with the New York Giants. Philip Rivers is nearing the end of his career, spent entirely with the Chargers.
If you remember the 2004 draft, Manning had decided he wanted no part of the Chargers, selecting first in the draft. San Diego picked him anyway. The Giants, selecting fourth, picked Rivers. They were immediately exchanged for each other, along with three more picks going to the Chargers.
The two quarterbacks will always be linked in many ways, and this discussion only adds one more link.
Both currently have 125 wins, including playoffs, as quarterbacks, tied for ninth among signal-callers since 1974. That 125 figure alone would likely be enough to satisfy the Hall. Except for two notable benchmarks. Manning has two Super Bowl wins, and was the MVP in both games. But when it comes to statistical achievements, you’d have a hard time understanding how he kept his starting job for so long. His TD/Int ratio is 384/253 and his yardage per pass attempt is 7.04. You can look up other Hall inclusions and candidates and see that his numbers aren’t exceptional in any way.
Rivers has those numbers (411/208, 7.81). But try and remember the last time the Chargers did anything worth celebrating in the playoffs. Only a couple of modern Hall of Fame quarterbacks never played in a Super Bowl. Warren Moon, whose NFL career would have been much longer if not for the absurd idea that quarterbacks must be white (thankfully, long since discarded) and Dan Fouts, who played a major role in defining the modern quarterback.
Manning is on a very short list of players owning two Rozelle trophies: Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr, and Manning. Does that defeat the statistical argument against him? Does Rivers, 0-1 in Conference Championship appearances, get in on statistics alone?
With a set of exceptional automatic enshrinees approaching in Peyton Manning, Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, have the sticks moved far enough forward that neither will make it? Or do we celebrate the quarterback enough that there’s room for both extremes?