Eli Manning Belongs in the Hall of Very Good, Not the Hall of Fame

Eli Manning Belongs in the Hall of Very Good, Not the Hall of Fame

While Eli Manning is one of just five QB in Super Bowl history to win multiple MVP Awards,
his inability to be consistent deserves to keep him out of Canton.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- Eli Manning is calling it a career. After an illustrious 16-year career that saw him hoist two Lombardi Trophies, the New Orleans native is finally hanging it up. The biggest question moving forward is whether Manning will have his own bust in Canton, Ohio, and become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While many can point to not only the two Super Bowls but the two Super Bowl MVPs he’s won, the overall statistics and eye test bear out that Manning just wasn’t consistent enough to earn the Hall of Fame honor.  

An important parameter to set is that statistical comparisons to players already in the Hall of Fame aren’t relevant. The game is extremely different than it was 30, 20 and even 10 years ago. Offensive numbers, especially quarterback numbers, are more inflated than they’ve ever been. For fair and proper context, you have to view Eli and every offensive player only in the era that they played in. 

Looking back on Eli’s career, he never achieved more than just a sliver of eliteness. His embarking legacy will be ruining the Patriots perfect season that was highlighted by David Tyree’s helmet catch in 2007. That is a lasting image that will never be forgotten. Following it up four years later and besting Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for a second time was equally as impressive. But eight games isn’t enough to boost an otherwise average career.

During his 14-years as the full-time starting quarterback, Eli was named to the Pro Bowl just four times and was rarely at the top of single-season passing leaderboards. Just once was Manning in the top 10 for completion percentage, finishing ninth in 2010 as he completed 62.9% of his passes. Manning was top 10 in passing yards per season six different times throughout his career, with his high watermark coming in 2011 when he was fourth. 

In terms of touchdown passes per season, Manning finished in the top 10 eight times, but also never was higher than fourth. Eli led the league twice in interceptions thrown while also finishing in the top 5 four other times. Finally, in terms of yards per attempt, Eli had just two top 10 finishes.

Those stats exemplify that more than anything else, Eli was an average to above-average quarterback. Rarely did he reach the pinnacle of elite quarterback play and never was able to assert himself as one of the top quarterbacks during his time. This is further highlighted by his dead even 117-117 record as a starter and zero All-Pro honors.  

In a league that gears their rules towards scoring, in essence making the quarterback position the most impactful and important in all of sports, the Giants were only able to make the playoffs six times, not winning a single playoff game outside of those two Super Bowl runs.  For reference, Eli has played in 12 playoff games throughout his career, less than his brother Peyton (27), Drew Brees (16), Tom Brady (41), Ben Roethlisberger (21) and Aaron Rodgers (18) while playing in just one more playoff game than Philip Rivers. Compared to the true greats at the quarterback position, Eli falls short yet again. 

What makes any hall of fame so special is that it celebrates the best of the best. The elite. The greatest to ever do it. After all, it’s not the hall of really good or pretty good. It exists for only those who belong in the company of immortality. Eli had two of the biggest moments in Super Bowl history. He slew Goliath. That is something that will never be taken away from him. The problem is that the Hall of Fame isn’t about a few great moments. It’s about a career filled with consistent, elite play. Outside of sharing the first three letters, Eli and elite haven’t had much in common. 

MLB’s Unprecedented Sanctions: Were They Harsh Enough and Will This Solve Baseball’s Rampant Cheating?

MLB’s Unprecedented Sanctions: Were They Harsh Enough and Will This Solve Baseball’s Rampant Cheating?

NEW YORK, N.Y.- After months of in-depth investigative work that involved dozens of interviews and thousands of reviewed emails, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred finally had enough information to levy what he hopes to be a punishment so harsh that organizations will consider cheating with the use technology to never be worth it. Manfred punished the most egregious offender, the Houston Astros, by suspending general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for a full season, stripping the Astros of their first and second round picks in both the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft and slapping the organization with a $5 million dollar fine, the highest amount possible allowed the MLB constitution. The punishments were further enforced by Astros owner Jim Crane, who subsequently fired both Luhnow and Hinch after the suspensions were announced. 

MLB is in the middle of picking up all of the pieces after yet another scandal has rocked their sport. This is the biggest scandal since the steroid era because not only did the 2017 World Series champions get busted for illegally using a video feed to decode signs and relay them in real time to the batter by banging a trash can, the 2018 champion Boston Red Sox were also recently busted for using the video room, designed to help with manager challenges and batters reviewing pitcher tendencies, to decode catcher signs and relay those signs to runners on base who then translated those signals to the batter. Two out of the last three champions now have stains on their trophy and Manfred had to make sure nothing like this happens again. 

A.J. Hinch, left, and Jeff Luhnow in 2017.Credit…Bob Levey/Getty Images

While we are still awaiting the investigation into the Red Sox to conclude, the biggest question regarding the punishment of the Astros centered around whether the sanctions were harsh enough. No players were suspended despite Manfred stating most of these sign-stealing schemes were devised and executed by the players. Manfred explains why he decided to punish only those in charge and not the players:

“Assessing discipline of players for this type of conduct is both difficult and impractical. It is difficult because virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme, and I am not in a position based on the investigative record to determine with any degree of certainty every player who should be held accountable, or their relative degree of culpability. It is impractical given the large number of players involved, and the fact that many of those players now play for other Clubs.”

There are a few reasons why I have no problem with the players skirting the blame. One is that in order to get to the bottom of this scandal and find out the real details, he needed honest testimony. I doubt many if any players would fully admit their role or explain the full scope of the scheme if those details would lead to their own punishment. By granting players immunity, Manfred and his investigators were able to get the full scoop of who was involved and how long the cheating continued for.

The biggest reason why I liked the idea to solely punish those in the front office is because cheating using technology is more than just a Houston Astros problem. This is a baseball problem. As Ken Rosenthal wrote in his initial article detailing the sign-stealing antics by the Astros, this extends far beyond just the 2017 World Series champions.

“Electronic sign stealing is not a single-team issue,” Rosenthal wrote. “Still, the commissioner’s office hears complaints about many different organizations.”

That was backed up by Tom Verducci’s latest article, who spoke with two sources familiar with the investigation who said that Astros personnel told MLB investigators that there were eight other teams that used technology in some fashion to cheat either in 2017 or 2018. 

This sign-stealing scandal, while headlined by the Astros, includes much more than just them, which is why it’s nearly impossible for Major League Baseball to track down every player involved and dole out a punishment. Cheating has always been pervasive throughout baseball, which is why the commissioner had to strike down hard to ensure his sport would veer back to its righteous ways.  

Punishing those who had chances to stop these acts from happening was the most efficient way to send a message and finally show that gaining an illegal edge aided by technology will not be tolerated in the game, which is something up to this point that was just words more than anything else. 

I look at these suspensions as a long term play by the commissioner in an attempt to place responsibility on the entire organization, starting from the owner down. By forcing general managers, managers, executives and owners to be responsible for player behavior, there is less of a willingness to break the rules because now jobs and reputations are on the line. These kind of stakes were never created before by baseball, who mostly turned a blind eye or delivered a slap on the wrist for any wrongdoing in the past. 

With the floor of punishment being a year-long suspension and a possible firing, why would any general manager or manager risk their livelihood at a chance to win a championship? I understand winning is the sole focus and motivation, but I have a hard time seeing an executive allowing his players to cheat to win a championship only to get caught and have their legacy ruined. While fans can say they would do whatever it takes to win a championship, it’s no longer lucrative for those inside the game to risk their place in the sport just to have a chance to win it all. 

For the commissioner’s office, disciplining the Astros is just the first step. Parameters have to put in place to ensure that the crime is not worth the time. While the precedent has been set for  those in the front office, a message also has to be sent to the players. Players have always tried to gain an edge, whether that be through corked bats, steroid, pine tar, etc. While no players faced the wrath this time around, Manfred needs to erect a set of guidelines and harsh punishments for players caught cheating by use of technology. Whether it’s mirroring the steroid suspension model or creating an even harsher penalty for offenders, there has to be no doubt that this behavior will be tolerated ever again. 

For Manfred, his work is just beginning. I applaud his loud first step of coming down harshly on the Astros, but more has to come. After all, he does have to look in the mirror and remember how the sport got to this place. The commissioner has sat on the sidelines, allowing the cheating to fester for years. Now it’s time for the New York native to step up to the plate with the sanctity of baseball desperately needing him to come through.  Down 0-2 in the count, Manfred is finally taking his swing. 

Which Tiger Will Earn Their Stripes?

Which Tiger Will Earn Their Stripes?

NEW YORK, N.Y.- It’s almost here. After what feels like forever and a day since the College Football Playoff semifinal games took place, the national championship is right around the corner. The best matchup we’ve seen both on paper and on the field is set to take place in New Orleans as the top ranked LSU Tigers takes on on the defending champions and third ranked Clemson Tigers. 

So which team has the edge going in? Both have identical 14-0 records and have star power all over the field. Below are three keys for each team on how they can leave New Orleans hoisting the championship trophy.    

Three Keys To A LSU Win:

Touchdowns, Not Field Goals: Watching the Fiesta Bowl easily hammers home this point. Ohio State moved the ball up and down the field against Clemson, but continuously settled for field goals, which kept Clemson around. LSU has to score touchdowns once they get inside the 20, which hasn’t been a problem for them this season. LSU has been deadly in the red zone, owning the most efficient red zone offense in the country, scoring at a 97% clip. The Tigers have entered the red zone 70 times, scoring a touchdown 55 times. This is a trend that must continue, especially considering that LSU has already faced three teams with a better red zone defense than Clemson, which is tied for 16th in the country. Red zone efficiency will be a huge key to this game and is a category that favors LSU.

 

Defensive Confidence: Throughout the year, the Tigers defense has been a question mark and left many, including myself, believing that the defense was holding them back from being a championship level team. Things have changed as LSU has shored up their defense. A big reason for that has been availability, as safety Grant Delpit recovered from an ankle injury, K’Lavon Chaisson is back to 100% and Michael Divinity Jr. will return from suspension to suit up for the Tigers. The narrative has changed dramatically as since the Ole Miss game, where significant doubts that the defense would hold LSU back from winning a national title, the Tigers have allowed just 270.2 yards per game and 14.2 points per game. The Tigers aced their biggest test of the season, holding a potent Oklahoma offense to 200 fewer yards and almost two touchdowns less than their per-game average. The defense is playing with an extreme confidence that will carry into Monday’s game. 

Feed Clyde Edwards-Helaire: The “do it all” back has been virtually unstoppable this season. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman wrote a great article this week, asking coaches who faced LSU this season how their offense has been so unstoppable. Aside from Burrow, the coaches highlighted Edwards-Helaire as who gives defenses the most problems. The junior running back has rushed for 1,304 yards while adding 50 catches for 399 yards and 17 total touchdowns. Edward-Helaire is a matchup nightmare as he’s a bruiser between the tackles, can speed past linebackers in coverage, run over the cornerbacks who try to tackle him and juke past the safeties that try to corral him. The premier running back should be close to full health after injuring his hamstring in practice leading up to the semifinal game against Oklahoma. If he’s in the mix early and often, it could be a frustrating night for Clemson. 

Three Keys To A Clemson Win:​

Complete Effort: While LSU has played both elite offenses and defenses at different points this season, they have yet to face a team that has both an elite offense and defense. Clemson poses that challenge as their defense is tied for first in the nation in yards per play allowed while the Clemson offense is third in total offense. This balance can put pressure on LSU like they’ve never experienced this season. The best defense against Burrow this season has been offense. While not their specialty, long drives by Clemson can not only can keep the potent LSU offense off the field, but wear down their defense to open up some big plays in the second half. While LSU is more battle tested this season, Clemson has the advantage coming out of that Ohio State game of knowing what it takes to win a game in which all three phases are needed to perform at their highest level. 

Flex Offensive Firepower: Did we all forget that this is the same Clemson offense that shredded Notre Dame and Alabama for a combined 1,020 yards and 74 points in the two Playoff games last year? For all of the hype and attention Burrow and this LSU offense has received, let’s not sleep on this juggernaut of an offense that resides in South Carolina. The Tigers rank third in the country in total yards, fourth in scoring offense and 11th in rushing offense. They have superstars at every level offensively as Trevor Lawrence is the presumed number one pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Travis Etienne leads the nation at eight yards per carry while both Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross are legitimate No. 1 receivers. LSU has only faced one offense similar to Clemson’s in Alabama and allowed 41 points. LSU has elite offensive talent, but Clemson has a real chance to give the Tigers a taste of their own medicine and put on an offensive explosion in the Superdome. 

Ride The Underdog Wave: Speaking of the Superdome, this national championship game will have a totally different feel than most because of its close proximity to LSU’s campus. Located just over an hour away, New Orleans will be flooded with fans clad in purple and gold. No coach has worked the underdog role more than Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. Dabo lives to be the underdog and has “Little Ol’ Clemson” playing their best when they have a chip on their shoulder. Already underdogs in terms of the betting line and essentially playing a road game in New Orleans, Dabo gets to fire up the disrespect card one last time this season. 

So Who Gets It Done?

The storybook season for Joe Burrow and LSU is leading me to believe more and more that Monday night in New Orleans will be a coronation for the Tigers. I mean even Hollywood couldn’t even write this script of an Ohio kid transferring in and after a decent first year teams up with a young passing game coordinator to produce the single greatest college football season we’ve ever seen from a player and possibly even a team if they can finish the job. 

What’s made me a believer isn’t Burrow or passing coordinator Joe Brady, but the LSU defense steadily improving and peaking at the right time. This combination of a historic offense coupled with a confident defense is enough for me to drink the kool-aid and believe that LSU will get it done Monday night. 

Which NFL Head Coaching Vacancies Are The Most Attractive?

Which NFL Head Coaching Vacancies Are The Most Attractive?

NEW YORK, N.Y.- Black Monday in the NFL came and went, with one of these least active days we’ve seen in recent time. Only one organization made a move as the New York Giants fired Pat Shurmur. Three other head coaching vacancies arose prior to Monday, as the Cleveland Browns fired Freddie Kitchens hours after the season ended while the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins made their firings during the season. In all, four head coach openings were available before the Redskins hired Ron Rivera as their head man on Tuesday morning. So with the Browns, Giants and Panthers still open, which is the most attractive situation?

1) Cleveland Browns:

Despite the dysfunction in the front office, the Browns are the most attractive job because of the talent on the roster. Stepping into either New York or Carolina is a rebuild situation while stepping into Cleveland is a ready to win situation. More than anything, the Browns need a leader as their head coach. Someone who can hold players accountable, lead from the front and create a culture that hasn’t existed in Cleveland in what feels like an eternity. The concern is the possible upheaval in the front office, as general manager John Dorsey’s job is possibly in jeopardy, although it seems like that decision could ultimately be made by the new head coach. If that’s the case, the new head coach either way will have a general manager who shares the same vision, which is key to putting a successful team out on the field.

The biggest priority is developing Baker Mayfield, who despite having a rough sophomore season has shown the ability to be the guy moving forward. The Browns won last offseason and built a tidal wave of hype heading into 2019 mostly because the players knew the talent they had. Players quit at the end of the year in part because they saw a loaded roster that was being wasted by incompetent coaching. Having a leader take charge, put players in positions to succeed and bring that 2018 second half swagger back will have the Browns on the up-and-up in 2020. This job has the highest ceiling and the quickest chance for success.

2) Carolina Panthers:

New owner David Tepper is ready to put his fingerprints all over this organization and guide Carolina under his vision. This started with the ousting of Rivera and could continue with the dismissal of franchise quarterback Cam Newton. Carolina is an interesting job because outside of Christian McCaffrey and Luke Kuechly, there isn’t much talent on the roster that stands out. The good news with that reality is the new head coach can shape the roster to his vision and pick his franchise quarterback. That is a luxury few head coaches are offered, as the other three openings this year all have young quarterbacks in place that the new coach will have to adopt.

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey gets patted on the head by offensive guard Trai Turner (70) after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, December 29, 2019. DAVID T. FOSTER III DTFOSTER@CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.COM

Another bonus is the NFC South power structure. While the Saints are division champs yet again, Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger. The Buccaneers never established any sort of threat this decade and the Falcons are running it back with a head coach who’s gone 7-9 in consecutive seasons despite having a talented offense. The division, while currently ruled by the Saints, could be up for grabs in a few years, which is the perfect timetable for a new head coach to rebuild the roster, find his franchise quarterback and be in the perfect position to capitalize if the Saints have a downfall post Brees.

3) New York Giants:

The Giants are an interesting situation. On the one hand, you have most of the pieces already set in place for future success as Daniel Jones showed signs he can be the guy moving forward, Saquon Barkley is a stud, Darius Slayton emerged as a reliable receiver and the offensive line flashed improvement. This should be enough for any candidate to jump at. Why the Giants are ranked third of the three teams is their decision to keep general manager Dave Gettleman. It’s been an interesting two years for Gettleman, who has made some nice draft picks in Jones, Slayton and a few defensive players yet struck out mightily in free agency. Trading Odell Beckham Jr. a few months after signing him to a contract extension is a massive black eye on his resume, not to mention to the other free agent misses like Nate Solder and trading for Alec Ogletree have not exactly worked out.

Entering a situation where the general manager is anything but secure is a tough ask for a head coach to accept, especially with how ownership seems divided on the direction of the team. The Giants have been one of the most stable franchises in the NFL, yet it’s been their instability the last few years that has made this job less desirable. There is a real possibility that a new general manager could take over next season, which automatically creates insecurity for the new head coach. This uncertainty moving forward is why the Giants are the least desirable head coach vacancy.

Just How Many Super Bowl Contenders Are There in the NFL?

Just How Many Super Bowl Contenders Are There in the NFL?

NEW YORK, N.Y.- With the NFL season winding down, the look ahead to the playoffs has already begun. As we enter into week 16, most of the playoff slots have been filled, with just the AFC South and second wild card up for grabs in the AFC while the NFC is mostly set outside of determining who will represent the NFC East. 

So with not much debate about which teams will make the playoffs, let’s turn our attention towards just how many teams can legitimately contend for the Super Bowl. It’s one thing to make the playoffs, but it’s a whole other discussion if a team can contend with the best each conference has to offer and come out on top. With that said, I believe there are six teams, three in each conference, that have a case for winning the Super Bowl.

AFC:

Ravens: Does anything else need to be said? Baltimore has been the most dynamic and exciting team in the NFL this season. Lamar Jackson has taken the league by storm, leading the way of the best scoring and rushing offense. But the Ravens aren’t just doing it with offense, as their defense is top-10 in scoring defense, passing yards allowed per game and rushing yards allowed per game. The Ravens are hot, riding a 10-game winning streak that includes wins over the Seahawks, Patriots, Texans, Rams, 49ers and Bills. Good luck to any AFC team that has to go into Baltimore this postseason.

Chiefs: Kansas City has flown under the radar during the second half of this season as Patrick Mahomes worked his way back from a dislocated kneecap. The offense of the Chiefs is unquestioned, but the continued concern is on the defensive end. They were unable to close out the Patriots in the AFC Championship game last year and didn’t improve much during the first half of this season. The last four games have been a different story though, as the Chiefs defense has allowed just 11.2 points per game. They also received some help this week, claiming veteran defensive end Terrell Suggs, who should bring a championship mindset to the unit. If the defense can carry this level of play they’ve shown the last four games into the playoffs, the Chiefs just might be able to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates an interception during the first half of Sunday’s football game against the Oakland Raiders on December 1, 2019 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. C/ Kansas City Star

Patriots: This pick is more out of respect for Bill Belichick and his ability to draw up defensive schemes to stop even the most potent offenses. The defense has led the way, owning the best scoring defense at just 12.9 points per game. Stephon Gilmore has been the best shutdown corner in 2019 and has thrown his name into Defensive Player of the Year consideration. The offense has struggled more than it ever has in the Belichick-Tom Brady era, yet is still doing enough to win games. This team isn’t dominating like it usually does, but would anyone be surprised if we saw New England representing the AFC in the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive season?

NFC:

49ers: San Francisco has shown the ability to win games in so many different ways that they will be the toughest out of any team once January hits. The 49ers can win shootouts (beat the Saints 48-46 in the Superdome), beat you by strictly running the ball (40 attempts for 275 yards vs. Browns, 38 times for 232 yards vs. Panthers) and win a defensive slugfest (9-0 shutout win over Redskins, held Packers to 198 total yards in 37-8 win). Having the capability of winning in various ways will make the NFC West leaders a matchup nightmare for any team they have to play. Not to mention the biggest question mark with this team, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, has shown the ability to step up in huge moments.

Seahawks: Seattle has been led by MVP candidate Russell Wilson, who’s taken his game to another level with the identity of the team switching from the defensive side to the offensive end. Backed behind the best offensive line they’ve had in Wilson’s career, the Seahawks have the third best rushing attack in the league, averaging just under 142 yards per game. This has allowed Wilson to pick apart defenses that load up the box to stop the run. Wilson has been extremely efficient, on track for the second best completion percentage and the least amount of interceptions thrown in his career. Seattle has been one of the best teams in the league at not beating themselves, committing just the fifth least defensive penalties, recovering the most fumbles, intercepting the third most passes and having the third best turnover differential at +13. Having an opportunistic defense that forces turnovers and an offense that rarely gives the ball away is a great recipe to come out of the NFC as the last team standing.

Photo courtesy Newsweek.com

Saints: New Orleans may have had a better record at this point in the season last year than they do this season, but there’s no doubt the 2019 team is head and shoulders the better team. The biggest reason for this is Drew Brees, whose thumb injury that forced him to miss five plus games turned out actually to be a blessing in disguise. While the Saints offense limped to the finish line last year, they have been unstoppable this season, averaging 34.8 points per game since their loss to the Falcons back in week 10. Brees has looked rejuvenated despite Alvin Kamara still working his way back from injury. Brees’ early season break could be the main difference in getting the Saints over the hump and back into the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately for teams like the Packers, Vikings, and Texans, inconsistency and glaring holes are the biggest reasons why they were left off this list. There haven’t been many years where there are so many teams legitimately in the discussion of representing their conference in the Super Bowl like we have in the NFL’s 100th season. Any combination of the six teams listed above would create a memorable finish to the 2019 season, so sit back and enjoy the postseason.