Selected four picks apart in the 2004 NFL Draft and promptly traded for each other, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning will forever be linked. As the veteran quarterbacks approach the end of their respective careers, assessing their value relative to each other is difficult.
Does Rivers deserve Hall of Fame honors more than Manning?
David P. Woods: It’s called the Hall of Fame, which implies it’s about more than just stats. Manning was never the best quarterback in the NFL, and interceptions were always an issue, but he has two of the signature wins in NFL history. No one but Manning can say he stood eye to eye with Tom Brady, the greatest ever to play the game, and vanquished him twice. Those wins alone merit enshrinement.
Dan Wilkins: Rivers doesn’t have the Super Bowl wins, and that ultimately may be what slots him behind Manning and others on future ballots. But that’s just not the right way to look at it. Forget about the name – Hall of Famers should be the best players in their era. Constantly putting subpar teams on his back, Rivers has been, at worst, a top-10 quarterback for his entire career. Can we honestly say the same about Manning?
Woods: Manning isn’t like many of his more consistent franchise-passer peers because, though his highs were quite high, they were matched by some very low lows (like an NFL-worst 27 interceptions in 2013). But Manning deserves a little extra credit for playing much of his career without the benefit of an above-average offensive line, a star running back, or stable play at wideout. Look at who caught his most famous passes: David Tyree and Mario Manningham. Each was out of football shortly after. Manning elevated the players around him, particularly in his biggest games.
Wilkins: The supporting cast on the other side of the ball is just as important to consider in these quarterback discussions. Rivers has never had the benefit of working in tandem with a defense like some of those Manning’s played with in New York. While there’s no doubt that Manning rose to a new level during those two playoff runs, he doesn’t sniff a Lombardi Trophy if it wasn’t for Giants pass-rushers doing the impossible and containing Brady. Are we talking about Joe Flacco as a surefire Hall of Famer if he finds more playoff magic and gets a second title? Not a chance. But are their careers really all that different?
Woods: A decade from now, the way Flacco’s viewed may be akin to how we see Jim McMahon today. He broke though for a ring and that can never be taken from him, but he only did it once. Eli has just as many rings as his brother Peyton and nothing will change that. Ultimately, I expect both Manning and Rivers will be enshrined, but rings still matter more than anything else. Manning’s will get him in ahead of Rivers.
Wilkins: Based on those rings and his last name, Manning will certainly get in first. And probably as a first-ballot enshrinee, at that. But that’s just another flaw in the Hall of Fame process. The Chargers got the far better player as part of that blockbuster deal in the 2004 draft, and he’s sustained his effectiveness, while Manning’s beginning to tail off in a hurry. Rivers will remain one of the most underrated passers of his generation – mostly because his team couldn’t put a capable group around him for any extended period of time.
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