Giants coach Pat Shurmur didn’t mince words this week when a Twin Cities reporter asked how the guy he benched two weeks ago will be remembered when his playing career ends.
“Right now, he’s the most iconic player to ever play for our franchise,” the former Vikings offensive coordinator said of quarterback Eli Manning, who sat behind rookie Daniel Jones the past two weeks as the Giants won consecutive games to reach 2-2 heading into Sunday’s game against the Vikings at MetLife Stadium.
The Vikings are quietly mourning the benching of their personal punching bag the past 15 years. In nine games against the Vikings, Manning is 3-6 with a 54.3 completion percentage, five touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 56.1 passer rating.
Mike Zimmer, who is 2-0 against Manning as Vikings coach, sure sounds like a guy who would prefer to blitz the stationary Manning than Jones, a mobile 6-5, 221-pounder and a surprise sixth overall pick out of Duke.
“He’s a really good player, and I think he’s going to be a great player,” Zimmer said. “He’s got an outstanding arm, he’s got good feet in the pocket, he moves well, he scrambles. Right now, it looks like he’s playing pretty free and nothing really affects him.
“He’s turned the ball over a couple of times, but it hasn’t affected him. [On] fourth-and-5 to win the ballgame against Tampa Bay, he scrambled in for the touchdown.”
Meanwhile, Manning, 38 and making $11.5 million this season, plays the role of classy mentor in his 16th season. As for next season, if he plays, it’s likely to be somewhere other than New York.
“His career’s not over yet,” said Hall of Fame quarterback and longtime CBS analyst Dan Fouts. “I think he still has some ball left in him.”
Fouts also is on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 48-member selection committee. So is yours truly. And, like our 46 peers, we’ve fielded numerous questionnaires from Giants reporters wanting to know right now if Manning is a future Hall of Famer.
This reporter doesn’t make that commitment one way or the other unless the still-active player in question is the kind of slam dunk whose case can be summed up in a single word like, “Rice, Emmitt, Barry, Walter, Favre” and, well, you get the idea. Archie Manning very well could have raised two Hall of Famers, but only one of them has a one-word pass into Canton: Peyton.
What say you, Mr. Fouts?
“I kind of cop out like you,” he said, laughing. “But it’ll be interesting because he has accomplished a great deal. Then again, some of the stats don’t add up” to the Hall of Fame.
In 232 regular-season starts, Manning has 116 wins and 116 losses. His passer rating (84.3) is average and he has 241 interceptions in 234 games played.
But there are a couple of really big buts …
In the 2007 and 2011 playoffs, he went 8-0 with 15 touchdowns, two interceptions and two Super Bowl MVPs in a couple of wins over the Patriots dynasty of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The David Tyree “Helmet Catch” to bring down the 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII is a top-three play in the NFL’s first 100 years.
Is that enough? Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls and he’s not in the Hall of Fame.
In Manning’s first 15 seasons, the Giants had eight nonwinning seasons. They won a playoff game in only two of the six years they made the playoffs. They went one-and-done with a 12-4 team in 2008 and an 11-5 team in 2016. And Manning’s career postseason passer rating is 87.4.
Shurmur said benching Manning was difficult but something he was prepared to do the moment the Giants hired him last year. Manning, he said, made things easier by accepting his new role like a pro.
“I really got a lot of respect for him as a man and as a person and certainly everything he’s done as a player,” Shurmur said. “He should be remembered as the guy who helped this organization win two Super Bowls and, in fact, was the MVP in two of them. He should be remembered as the guy who played every week and really never was out because of injury. … And the other thing he should be proud of … is part of this is about legacy and he’s in a position now where he can help the young man that’s replaced him. That’s something I’ve watched him embrace.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org