Today will be a day spent discussing Eli Manning’s Legacy. We must immediately brand him with a ranking and an assessment, compare him to Peyton and Tom, to all who came before. Odes will be written; lines will be drawn. Hyperbole will be the order of the day. Did you scoff at those of us who suggested he was a pretty good quarterback despite the interceptions last year, because those buggers are so random and often result from actions of the receiver, bad bounces, or great defensive plays? No bother, that is now buried 100 deep in the internet search queries. Praise away. And if things change, that will be buried, too.
So what is Eli Manning’s Legacy? The first thing I could do is point out that declaring a Legacy now is antithetical; it is the transient move. Don’t believe me? What is Tom Brady’s “Legacy”? Is it different now than it was in 2001, or 2004, or 2007? (Don’t answer that, Eric Wilbur.) Something is not defined mid-painting, and it is the safer play to wait ’til the die is completely cast and then write as if it was all so certain to begin with. The perception of Eli – his legacy as people will say – can change due to himself, and of course due to what others outside his control do.
So what is Eli Manning’s Legacy? I could point out the word legacy is being used improperly in most circumstances in the sports world. I can find no definition that easily fits its use here. Legacies can be inheritances, or they can refer to those who attend a university of their ancestors. The most applicable would define a legacy as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor from the past.” There is no “what do sportswriters think of you” definition.
The true Manning legacy, then, is a shared one at quarterback from Archie to Peyton and Eli. Archie Manning never won squat in the NFL, no playoff appearances, a 35-101-1 record for his teams in games he started. Peyton and Eli have won plenty, and now the younger Manning has two Super Bowl titles, two late drives as an underdog, two of the more improbable wins at the outset of a playoffs in league history. What that legacy shows is that the quarterback cannot do it alone, no matter what. Manning has played great in the final key moments, and the Giants have also won two of the eleven Super Bowls where the winner had 21 points or fewer. Plenty of key plays were made to achieve that.
So what is Eli Manning’s Legacy? Whatever you want it to be, if we mean “how will he be remembered.” That’s your call. The NFL has a rich history, and no two stories are the same.
What I do know is this: In 2011, in a year of many great quarterback performances, Eli Manning was an elite quarterback, play in, play out (8.4 yards per attempt) and made big plays all season, with seven 4th quarter game winning drives. He made the plays all year to give the Giants a chance, even when they were struggling on defense, when the breaks were beating the boys.
No talk of writers upon the shifting sands of legacy talk in future years can change that. The rest? How we define someone, whether they are a Hall of Famer, that will take care of itself.
[photo via Getty]