Following his official retirement announcement on Friday, the debate about whether or not former Giants quarterback Eli Manning belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame rages on.
One of the most polarizing candidates in recent memory, Manning threw for over 57,000 yards and tossed 336 touchdown passes in 16 seasons in New York, ranking in the top-10 all-time in both categories. He also engineered two of the greatest Super Bowl upsets in history, including dethroning the undefeated Patriots in 2008.
However, much of Manning’s productivity derived from longevity more than being an elite player at his position and playing in a pass-heavy era may not help his chances of making it to Canton. On three separate occasions, he led the league in interceptions. His career touchdown rate falls below Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, and Jameis Winston.
Per Pro Football Reference, Manning also ranks 42nd in adjusted yards per pass attempt, and though other Hall of Famers posted a similar number, he’s also in company with the likes of Steve Beurlein, Jeff Garcia, and Neil O’Donnell.
While time will tell if Manning gets into the Hall of Fame, several other quarterbacks currently in the league have built far more compelling cases for entering football immortality. Among those, Seahawks star Russell Wilson may already have one foot in the door in Canton after finishing his eighth NFL season.
This season alone, Wilson became the fifth-fastest quarterback to 200 career touchdown passes, joining exclusive company alongside Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Dan Marino, and Aaron Rodgers. He also became the first player in NFL history to throw 200 or more touchdown passes and run for 15 or more touchdowns in his first eight seasons.
In addition, he joined the eldest Manning as only the second quarterback in league history to pass for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first eight seasons. As he'll gladly tell you, Wilson feels he's "just getting started."
Using a holistic approach, Wilson already stands out in a number of critical categories compared to other Hall of Fame-worthy quarterbacks from his era and has a chance to climb even higher in upcoming seasons.
Despite playing in a run-first offense that has limited his throwing attempts for much of his career, Wilson has been as efficient of a passer as any quarterback in NFL history. He’s currently tied with Rodgers for the highest touchdown rate in league history, ranks second behind Rodgers in career passer rating, and trails only Tom Brady and Rodgers for the lowest interception rate all-time.
Though he sits 26th overall in passing touchdowns, he’s managed to do so in just 128 games. Only one other player in the top 25 has played in fewer than 150 games, as Matthew Stafford has thrown 256 touchdowns in 149 games. If he maintains his career average of 28 touchdown passes per year over the next three seasons, he will quickly be closing in on the top-10 all-time.
In contrast, Wilson has thrown just 68 interceptions in his career, or less than nine per season on average. He and Andrew Luck are the only quarterbacks in the top 50 for touchdown passes with less than 100 interceptions. At his current pace, Wilson might not reach that point until after his 11th season when he turns 35 years old.
Further bolstering his resume, Wilson recently surpassed Steve McNair to move into fifth place in NFL history for rushing yards by a quarterback. Though his rushing touchdown total pales in comparison to the four players ahead of him, only Steve Young had more touchdowns and passing yards. Young already is enshrined in the hall and Wilson has a chance to pass him in both categories as early as next season.
Coming out of Wisconsin, Wilson fell to the third round because of concerns about his lack of height. But at 5-foot-10, he’s proven shorter players can excel under center at the highest level and in the process, he has built an impressive first eight seasons that rivals any quarterback in history.
Assuming he continues to produce at an elite level for a few more seasons in Seattle and continues to avoid injury, Wilson will be a surefire lock to eventually join Walter Jones, Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, and Kenny Easley in Canton whenever he hangs up his cleats.