There are many paths to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for a player. Some reach Canton with personal achievements, while others make themselves stand out by shining brightest during the biggest moments of their career. For two NFL quarterbacks, recently retired Eli Manning and the newly crowned Super Bowl champion Matthew Stafford, the method of how players at their position become Hall of Famers will be tested in the coming years when each become eligible for enshrinement. So, if you needed to pick only one of them RIGHT NOW for induction into the Hall of Fame, which one would you choose: Eli Manning or Matthew Stafford?
The confetti was still falling in SoFi Stadium when the question was being asked: Now that Matthew Stafford has a championship ring, is he a Hall of Fame quarterback? After all, Stafford was freed from the misery of playing for the Detroit Lions when the Los Angeles Rams sold out for the 2021 season by trading for him. Then, after a bumpy start, Stafford and the Rams offense found out they had Cooper Kupp, who matched up well with his new quarterback and went on to win the wide receiver triple crown (most yards, most touchdown pass catches and most overall receptions). Thanks to having Stafford throw him the ball, Kupp went on to also claim the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award as well as the Super Bowl MVP trophy, something that only Jerry Rice did in a career … with Kupp doing it all in the same season.
Despite not winning the MVP of the season’s final game, people are already talking about seeing Matthew Stafford receive a gold jacket and going into the Hall of Fame just because he won the Super Bowl when clearly it takes more than that, otherwise, Trent Dilfer would be a Hall of Famer himself.
Matthew Stafford finished the 2021 season 12th on the all-time passing yardage list, and with both Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger retiring this offseason, he is third among active QBs on that same list behind only Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers. Stafford is also 12th all-time in passing touchdowns with Rodgers leading all active QBs and Matt Ryan also ahead of him. Even his TD/Int ratio of 2-to-1 (323 to 161) is right on par with what people want to see in the NFL. Where Stafford’s Hall of Fame résumé takes a hit is his career win-loss record, which now stands at 86-95-1. Others like Richard Sherman will add that Stafford has only made one Pro-Bowl (not All-Pro, but Pro Bowl) in his career, something that puts a big dent in his case to be a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Then we have Eli Manning, the former New York Giants quarterback who hangs his Hall of Fame credentials on two Super Bowls win, each of which earned him MVP honors. Manning is currently 9th all-time in passing yards, but is third among his vaunted 2004 Draft Classmates, some 8,000 yards behind Philip Rivers who is sixth and Ben Roethlisberger who is fifth. Manning is also 10th in all-time touchdown passes but is 43 Matthew Stafford TD passes from being knocked out of the top ten. Like Stafford, Manning’s career win/loss record is less than impressive at 117-117, and his 60.3% passer completion percentage would barely catch anyone’s eye if he was coming into the league now or even five years after he was drafted first overall by the Chargers before being traded to the Giants for Philip Rivers.
Eli Manning’s 366 TD passes are impressive, but as someone offset by his 244 career interceptions, fueled by the three seasons he led the NFL in INTs. So while Manning can lift up his two Super Bowl rings and game MVP awards, when you look objectively at his overall career, saying he is an all-time great is a difficult journey to make and very difficult to prove to those outside of Big Blue Nation.
If you want a story of perseverance, you take Matthew Stafford for the Hall of Fame; if you want the NFL Hall of Fame to include both brothers from a family of quarterback royalty, then you take Eli Manning and put him in next to Peyton. For me, when looked at without bias of agenda, neither quarterback belongs in the Hall of Fame. If you made me pick one, however, Eli Manning gets the nod because NFL legacies are defined by what a player and coach does in the Super Bowl, and like it or not, those two circus catches were thrown by Manning and helped set up game-winning drives to give the Giants two more Lombardi trophies.
Could the Rams have won with another quarterback this past season? Probably, especially since they made a Super Bowl with Jared Goff. And that hurts Stafford even more, which is why without anything else going for him other than his difficult years in Detroit, Stafford can’t make a strong case for the Hall of Fame, whereas Manning has two rings and trophies to stand on.
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Better Hall Of Fame Resume: Eli Manning Or Matthew Stafford? | TooAthletic.com