The debate over New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s status as an elite NFL passer will rage until the Giants open the 2012 NFL season and possibly beyond that. Fresh off his second Super Bowl win, Eli Manning is enjoying life while the rest of the football world is arguing his place in the pecking order of NFL quarterbacks. Eli Manning was elite long before he won his second Super Bowl, but that doesn’t make him a “greater” quarterback than his brother, Peyton Manning.
You may not have ever heard of Robert Horry, who won seven combined NBA titles while playing for the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. Horry only started on one of those seven title teams, yet he boasts more rings than Michael Jordan, the unquestioned greatest basketball player who ever lived.
If greatness was derived off championship rings alone, then Trent Dilfer is a “greater” quarterback than Dan Marino. If you believe that, you’re either a close relative of Dilfer’s under the age of 10 or you belong in the loony bin.
Eli Manning may have two rings to Peyton Manning’s one, but that doesn’t mean he’s a “greater” quarterback. Eli Manning is undoubtedly a more clutch quarterback than Peyton Manning; the elder brother led the Colts to a 13-3 finish in his sophomore season after winning only three games his rookie year. However, it took Peyton Manning six years to win his first playoff game.
Eli Manning not only won his first playoff game in his fourth season, but won his first Super Bowl the same year. It took Peyton Manning nine years to win a title and his Indianapolis Colts lost in his second trip to the big game. Eli Manning is 2-0 in Super Bowls.
There are only two “positions” in football that have wins recorded as a career statistic: head coaches and quarterbacks. That shouldn’t be the case for quarterbacks; there are 52 other players who play extremely important roles on the team as well. You’re nuts if you think Trent Dilfer “led” the Ravens to a title in 2001, yet he still gets credited with wins on his career stat sheet, including that Super Bowl.
To put it simply, Super Bowls alone don’t make a great quarterback. Dan Marino was one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, but he doesn’t have a ring. Karl Malone is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but never bested Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals.
Had it not been for the NFL lockout and his neck surgeries, Peyton Manning would be on his way to breaking every legitimate career passing record in the league. He’d be on his way to breaking Brett Favre’s start streak record and he still very may likely break all of Favre and Marino’s career passing records.
Even if he never plays in another Super Bowl, anyone with true football knowledge will regard Peyton Manning as arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. His knowledge of the game and ability to read coverages are historically unrivaled and he has a ring. The fact Peyton Manning “only” has one ring doesn’t matter one iota.
Even if Peyton Manning never plays another snap in the NFL, he’s arguably the greatest passer ever. Whether or not you like him matters not; Peyton Manning is the ultimate quarterback. Any coach, scout, general manager, etc. in the world couldn’t dream up a better quarterback.
On the flip side, Eli Manning is just as elite because he’s a winner. He’s very capable of throwing for 400 yards to win a game; he did it three times this year. In fact, the “other” brother was 67 yards away from becoming the fifth 5,000-yard passer in league history. Peyton Manning has never thrown as many yards as Eli Manning did this year.
Still, no one can argue that Eli Manning’s intellect of the game is on the same level as Peyton Manning’s. However, Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings in his first eight seasons; Peyton Manning hadn’t even been to a Super Bowl at that point in his career.
In conclusion, championship rings are not the great equalizer. If that were the case, Robert Horry is a greater all-time basketball player than Michael Jordan and Andy Pettitte is a greater all-time pitcher than Cy Young. Both statements are blasphemous to sports in general. Eli Manning and Peyton Manning are very different quarterbacks, but both are elite regardless of Super Bowls titles. Besides, oldest brother Cooper Manning calls both underachievers; he says he would have won five Super Bowls by now if he had been physically able to continue playing past high school. Food for thought.
Follow Jeric Griffin on Twitter @JericGriffin