Eli Manning retired this past week after 16 NFL seasons, and Patriots fans should be rooting hard for him to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
No, really. Hear me out.
Manning isn’t eligible for enshrinement until 2025, but his candidacy was the No. 1 sports topic by the end of the week, because there is no middle ground — you are either dead set for his induction, or dead set against it.
That’s because Manning’s candidacy is almost entirely built around his postseason success. His regular-season numbers were decidedly average, exemplified by a 117-117 won-loss record. Manning also made only four Pro Bowls, and led the NFL in interceptions three times.
But those two Super Bowl wins over the Patriots, the culmination of two magical playoff runs, are what could (will) eventually get Manning into the Hall.
“Assuming I’m still on the panel, I’m definitely going to vote for him on the first ballot,” said Hall of Fame voter Gary Myers, a longtime New York sportswriter. “I just look at it like, what else do you want for a quarterback, who played his best at the biggest time?”
There aren’t many candidates with this type of résumé — Joe Namath, Terrell Davis, and Kurt Warner are the three top examples of players who got in more for their postseason success than their regular-season body of work.
“This is such a unique circumstance,” Myers said. “Eli had a .500 record in the regular season, he never won a playoff game in any other season other than the two Super Bowl runs, but those two Super Bowl runs were just so amazing.”
But if Manning gets in because of postseason success, it should only bolster the Hall candidacies of a number of 2000s-era Patriots who won a lot more than Manning did — guys such as Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, and, one day, Julian Edelman.
The Manning supporters are all quick to highlight his postseason success. And the Super Bowl runs of 2007 and 2011 were certainly impressive. The Giants went 4-0 in both years, while only playing one game at home (five on the road, two on neutral fields). Manning knocked off the 18-0 Patriots with a two-minute drill for the ages, then defeated the Patriots again four years later, including that unbelievable throw to Mario Manningham.
Manning is one of five players with multiple Super Bowl MVPs — Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, and Bart Starr are in the Hall of Fame, and Tom Brady will be. Manning also was durable, never missing a game because of injury.
“I learned very early that you evaluate quarterbacks on their ability to win championships, and to do it late in a game when the game is on the line,” former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi said in a statement. “The second thing is to know that over a period of years he’s always going to be there. Those kinds of quarterbacks always give you a chance to win, and for 16 years he did that for this franchise. He won championships and he was always there giving us a chance to win. I don’t know how you can ask more from a quarterback.”
That is certainly all well taken. But if Manning gets in because of his postseason success, how can the voters deny Seymour, who was instrumental in helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls? Seymour is a finalist for the third straight year, with the announcement of the five-person class coming the night before the Super Bowl.
Last year, Hall voter John McClain told the Globe it was “ridiculous” that the Patriots don’t have more players in the Hall from the early part of the dynasty, and voter Sal Paolantonio called it a “total injustice” that players such as McGinest and Bruschi, the leaders of a three-time Super Bowl-winning defense, haven’t been Hall of Fame finalists yet.
And if Manning gets in, how can voters deny Edelman, whose résumé is similar? His regular-season numbers don’t add up to Hall of Fame levels, but he is an all-time great playoff performer — No. 2 in NFL history behind Jerry Rice in postseason receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,442), and a key part of three Super Bowl-winning teams. And Edelman, like Manning, has several signature postseason moments. He caught the winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, made a circus catch to keep a miracle comeback alive against the Falcons, then won Super Bowl MVP honors against the Rams.
“I don’t know if [Edelman] would be a lock, because Eli is a quarterback, and there’s so much more put on that position,” one Hall of Fame voter told me this past week. “But I think it would certainly strengthen Edelman’s case for someone who wanted to compare the two.”
So root hard for Manning to get into the Hall of Fame, Patriots fans. It will force Hall of Fame voters to reconsider the candidacies of Bruschi, McGinest, Edelman, and other Patriots who helped bring six Lombardi Trophies to Foxborough.
Shanahan not reliving the past
Perhaps knowing he is going to be asked about it approximately 10,000 times this coming week in Miami, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t shy away from the 28-3 questions last Monday at his news conference. Shanahan was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator three years ago when they gave up the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history to the Patriots.
“Not much at all anymore, to tell you the truth,” he said when asked if he still goes over that game in his mind. “The days after were real tough. Losing a Super Bowl is extremely tough for everybody, especially when you lose one when you have a 28-3 lead.”
Would Shanahan like to redo any of his play calls in the fourth quarter? Of course.
“There were definitely parts in that Super Bowl that I would love to have back and stuff. I was very hard on myself,” Shanahan said. “People act like there was a bunch of big learning moments in that game. I wish I didn’t call that pass on second and , but the learning moments never feel good.”
Leading, 28-20, with 4:40 left in the fourth quarter, the Falcons got first and 10 at the Patriots’ 22-yard line, well within range to kick the game-icing field goal.
But a run on first down lost a yard, a pass on second down resulted in a 12-yard sack, and a pass on third down resulted in a Jake Matthews holding penalty, pushing the Falcons well outside of field goal range.
“I wish I didn’t call that play on second and 11 that led to that sack,” Shanahan said. “Tried to get a play to Julio [Jones]. They played a different coverage, didn’t get the call I wanted so I didn’t like the call. I was hoping we could just get rid of it, but they had a pretty good rush and got a sack.”
However, Shanahan definitely learned his lesson that day to never let up on an opponent. He said it stuck with him last Sunday in the 49ers’ win over the Packers in the NFC Championship game.
“I promise you, when we’re way up in the fourth quarter on Green Bay and stuff, I know what 28 minus 3 is. I know a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter isn’t enough,” he said. “I won’t say I ever relaxed in that Super Bowl, especially with Tom Brady having that ball, but that’s something that keeps you humble at every single moment until the game is over.”
It all comes down to this
A few other Super Bowl notes:
■ The Chiefs are making just their third Super Bowl appearance, and first in 50 years. They defeated the Vikings, 23-7, in Super Bowl IV in January 1970, pulling off the upset as 12½-point underdogs.
The Super Bowl was, shall we say, a quainter event back in 1970. The game was played at Tulane Stadium, and the halftime show was a reenactment of the Battle of New Orleans. On the sideline, coach Hank Stram wore a blazer with a Chiefs logo. At halftime, Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson was photographed smoking a cigarette and drinking a Fresca in the locker room.
Super Bowl IV marked the final game of the American Football League, as it would merge with the NFL the following year. It was also the first time a coach was mic’d up for a Super Bowl. Stram didn’t tell anyone he was wearing a microphone, and the resulting film was one of the first to bring fans inside the game, including Stram’s famous reaction to the “65 toss power trap.”
■ Last year at this time, the 49ers’ coaching staff was coaching in the Senior Bowl, a privilege afforded the two worst teams from the previous season. Once Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3, the Niners’ 2018 season went down the tubes, and they finished 4-12.
But there was a silver lining — they got the No. 2 overall pick, and landed budding superstar Nick Bosa.
Garoppolo returned this season, and Bosa helped turn the defense into one of the NFL’s best.
“Things have a way of working out. I always told myself it was a blessing in disguise, the ACL and everything,” Garoppolo said this past week. “And yeah, we got Bosa out of it. That’s a pretty good trade-off, I guess.”
■ Kyle Shanahan nearly had a heart attack during his last trip to the Super Bowl three years ago, but not during the game. During the Opening Night media fest, Shanahan’s backpack went missing — filled with his iPad and other valuables.
“I had almost a panic attack,” Shanahan recalled. “Not because of the game plan or anything. That’s on an iPad and you need codes to get in and stuff and we have others, so that’s not a big deal. But I had about 48 Super Bowl tickets in there that I bought for family members and everything. I was carrying a lot of money from that, a lot of IOUs and stuff. I was very panicked about the tickets and the cash.” Shanahan eventually discovered that longtime Bay Area sportswriter Art Spander had a similar-looking backpack and picked up Shanahan’s by mistake.
“It was gone for about an hour and a half,” Shanahan said. “The whole team left me, the Patriots came in, I was walking around there looking for my backpack frantically, running into more media people and still having to do interviews past my deal. I was trying not to come off as a jerk blowing them off, but I was panicked trying to find my backpack. It was awkward, but Art ended up coming back with it. He had it, and they tried to take it off of him. And he wouldn’t give it to me at first until I showed him it was mine.
“I forgave him fast, but I was stressed for a while.”
Brady rumors don’t concern Carr
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has heard the rumors about Tom Brady signing with his team in free agency, and saw the buzz that Brady generated last weekend at the Conor McGregor fight by saying hello to Raiders owner Mark Davis in front of lots of cameras.
Carr doesn’t seem happy about any of it.
“I mean, there was a lot of quarterbacks at that fight,” Carr said. “And it’s like, every time, with my job, it’s always a story. No matter what. I even know what the conversation was [between Davis and Brady], and it’s like, ‘Come on, man, when’s it going to end?’ ”
Carr has three years left on his contract at about $19 million per season, but the Raiders have missed the playoffs three years in a row, and they can get out of the deal with little financial penalty this year.
But Carr doesn’t seem worried about Brady, or anyone, taking his job.
“I’ll say it this way: I look forward to taking the first snap in that stadium [in Las Vegas], and I look forward to taking every snap from here on out — until I’m done,” he said.
Brees, Saints are on the same side
While Brady and the Patriots play chicken over his future, the Saints and Drew Brees are handling their situation much more amicably.
Brees is a free agent in March, as are Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill, and the Saints likely won’t be able to keep all three.
But GM Mickey Loomis told reporters that the team wants Brees back if he wants to play, and that “I don’t take him for granted.”
Brees is contemplating retirement but won’t shop himself around.
“It’s not a given if I come back every year, but when that time comes, I’ll always be a Saint,” he told NFL Network.
A tip of the cap to two ex-Patriots defensive coordinators taking a step back in 2020. Romeo Crennel won’t be back in the same role with the Texans, who promoted Anthony Weaver to coordinator. Crennel, winner of three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots and two with the Giants, has been a coordinator or assistant head coach in Houston since 2014, and could move back to more of an overseer type of role. And Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who held that role in New England from 2006-09, retired shortly after Tennessee’s loss in the AFC Championship game after 40 years in coaching. Pees went out on a high note, knocking off the Patriots and Ravens in consecutive playoff games on the road . . . Big fan of the NFL’s decision to replace onside kicks in the Pro Bowl with a fourth-and-15 play from the 25-yard line, and I hope the Competition Committee strongly considers it this spring as a new rule for 2020. First and foremost, the onside kick is a dangerous play and should be eliminated for that reason alone. Second, the new kickoff rules have rendered the play much tougher to execute — just 12 of 114 onside kicks have been successful the last two years (10.5 percent). Meanwhile, teams have converted third-and-15 or fourth-and-15 situations 16.24 percent of the time over the past five years, making it a more competitive play. It also puts one of the game’s most critical plays in the hands of the quarterback and the offense, not on the kicker and the “hands team” . . . If the NFL doesn’t have a new collective bargaining agreement in place this spring, teams will be able to use both the franchise and transition tags on their free agents. Usually teams have to choose one or the other, but the rules are different in 2020 because it is the final year of the CBA.