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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
John Fennelly

The final year of the Eli Manning Hall of Fame debate has arrived

With the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 announced this week, we can now focus on the long-standing debate that is about to come to a conclusion next year at this time.

That debate is whether or not former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is worthy of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Manning, who retired after the 2019 season, will be eligible for induction into Canton beginning next year.

Giant fans already know that Manning belongs, as do the fans of the New England Patriots — the team Manning defeated twice in the Super Bowl.

But there are fans of other teams, especially those of the rival Philadelphia Eagles, who continue to contest Manning’s candidacy out of sheer jealousy, although they have finally won a Super Bowl in recent years. Others believe he’s a ‘nepo baby’ who skated on his family name.

But the numbers do not lie. Manning had a long and successful career. There are many who have busts in Canton who have achieved a lot less.

Eli will be among an impressive group of newcomers who will also be in their first year of eligibility, but few have his resume.

That aside, Manning’s induction in Year 1 is far from a slam dunk. Tom Rock, the veteran Giants columnist from Newsday, is preparing Giant fans for a possible snub.

While Manning certainly will be the most decorated and highest-profile quarterback on the ballot the committee considers throughout the coming months, he’s not going to be the slam dunk candidate some might consider him to be.

The Hall hasn’t enshrined a quarterback since Peyton Manning in 2021. That means fellow two-time Super Bowl champ Jim Plunkett along with others such as Joe Theismann, Ken Anderson, Earl Morrall and even Phil Simms have been waiting patiently on the fringes of Canton.

Eli Manning was the quarterback for a series of Hall of Fame-worthy moments, the kind of plays that will get rewound and replayed every year around this time as long as football exists, but his overall career numbers are far less impressive.

All true. Many will also point to Eli’s lukewarm record as a starting quarterback (117-117) and the fact that he was never named to the first or second All-Pro Team, which for a player who played as long as Manning, is a conspicuous hole that could cause some voters pause.

None of that may matter. Manning’s on-field exploits along with his off-the-field actions could simply add up to a ‘yes’ for many.

Eli has been a model citizen, working tirelessly for multiple charities, and was named the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2016.

After all, why would so many companies choose Eli to be their spokesman if he wasn’t a great player and a great person?

He’s worthy.

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