Eli Manning retired from the NFL six days ago. Before he officially said goodbye to the New York Giants after 16 seasons, his place in NFL history was being debated ad nauseum. Specifically, whether or not his resume is worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Deion Sanders doesn’t think so. The Hall of Fame cornerback believes too many players are being allowed into the Hall of Fame.
“What is a Hall of Famer now? Is it a guy who played a long time?” Sanders said in an interview on The Dan Patrick Show. “It’s so skewed now. Once upon a time, a Hall of Fame was a player who changed the darn game, who made you want to reach in your pocket and pay your admission to see that guy play. That’s not a Hall of Famer anymore. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry, you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer. They let everybody in this thing. It’s not exclusive anymore. I don’t like it.”
Sanders didn’t mention any players he thought he were watering down the Hall of Fame by name. However, when asked about Manning, he said, “You get the point.”
“He had a great career,” Aikman, who will provide color commentary for FOX’s coverage of Super Bowl LIV, said. “Those Super Bowl runs, I’d put those games and those runs up against anyone in the history of the game. He got to them to that point. He’s the reason they won those Super Bowls.”
Aikman was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, his first year of eligibility. Manning has been criticized for never being named an All-Pro…but neither was Aikman.
“What’s hard is—and I went through it—you go through a career and you feel good about it,” Aikman said. “My guess is Eli’s thrilled with the career that he had. And he should be…for me, I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Manning completed 60.3 percent of his passes for his career, throwing 366 touchdowns and 244 interceptions. Aikman’s career completion percentage is 61.5, throwing 165 touchdowns and 141 interceptions. It is worth noting Aikman had the services of a Hall of Fame running back and Hall of Fame wide receiver for most of his career.
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“Back then, social media didn’t exist. I wasn’t asked (about the Hall of Fame) on the day of my retirement,” Aikman said. “When it got closer, after five years, it was almost like I had to apologize or defend my career. That’s the part of it that really kind of sucks. I don’t like it for him. I don’t like the debate…I don’t like the process we go through for the Hall of Fame.”
Manning will not be eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame for five years. A 48-member media panel (which currently includes Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and James Lofton) votes on Super Bowl weekend.
“As far as saying he is a Hall of Famer or he is not a Hall of Famer, I don’t think any player should ever retire from football feeling they are a Hall of Fame player,” Aikman said. “I think it takes away from those that are in the Hall of Fame. If you are fortunate to be asked to join, you should join with hat in hand and feel good about it. I’ve never like hearing a player complain about not being selected to the Hall of Fame.”
Of course, it is not in Eli Manning’s nature to complain. He will not lash out at Deion Sanders or anyone else who used the occasion of his retirement from pro football to dissect his career and criticize it.
When Terrell Owens criticized the Hall of Fame’s selection process, Prime Time was silent. It is only when No. 10 retires that he seems to care about how players are inducted into the Hall of Fame. It seems he’s putting the cart before the horse since Manning won’t be eligible for induction until 2025. He’s also conspicuously quiet about the quarterback he won a Super Bowl with whose stats are comparable to Manning’s.