The common argument for why Manning should make the Hall of Fame is that he and the Giants won two Super Bowls, knocking off the legendary Patriots both times. And in the modern era (i.e., ignoring Tobin Rote), only Jim Plunkett has won two Super Bowls and not made the Hall of Fame. That’s true, but it’s also a wildly misleading way of looking at things. If you want to argue that Manning should make the Hall of Fame, that’s a good way to frame your argument, but that’s thinking more like a defense attorney and less like a judge.
Here’s another way to think about it: every single quarterback in the Hall of Fame has been named a first-team All-Pro at least once in their career, except for one quarterback. And that one quarterback was a no doubt Hall of Famer who also won an MVP trophy.
Two years ago, I wrote about how — statistically speaking — Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame case falls far short. Today, let’s look not at statistics, but at how sportswriters (i.e., those people who vote for things like the Hall of Fame) viewed these quarterbacks during their careers. If you include Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, there are 29 Hall of Fame quarterbacks who entered the NFL in the last 70 years.
Of that group, 16 have been named an MVP by the Associated Press: Peyton Manning (5 times); Johnny Unitas (3); Brett Favre (3); Joe Montana (2); Steve Young (2); Tom Brady (2); Aaron Rodgers (2); Kurt Warner (2); Dan Marino (1); Fran Tarkenton (1); Y.A. Tittle (1); Ken Stabler (1); Bart Starr (1); John Elway (1); Norm Van Brocklin (1); and Terry Bradshaw (1).
Of the other 13 quarterbacks, 8 won at least one type of MVP award. Otto Graham was named the UPI MVP three times. Joe Namath was the AFL AP MVP two times, and George Blanda (who is also in for his contributions as a kicker) was the AFL AP MVP in 1961. Dan Fouts was the MVP in 1982 according to both the PFWA and the NEA.
Bob Griese was the AP 1st-team All-Pro choice at quarterback in ’71 and ’77, and was the NEA MVP in ’71 and the Bert Bell Player of the Year in ’77. Roger Staubach was the Bert Bell POY in ’71, and also a 1st-team choice on the All-Decade team of the ’70s. Drew Brees was the AP Offensive Player of the Year in ’08 and ’11, and the Bert Bell POY in ’09. Warren Moon was named the AP OPOY and the NEA MVP in ’90.
The other 5 HOF QBs are Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Layne, Len Dawson, Jim Kelly, and Troy Aikman. Jurgensen was the AP 1st-team All-Pro choice at quarterback in both ’61 and ’69, and was on the All-Decade team of the ’60s. Layne was the AP 1st-team All-Pro choice at QB in ’52 and ’56, and was on the All-Decade team of the ’50s. Dawson was the AP AFL All-Pro QB in ’62 and ’66, and was a 2nd-team member of the AFL All-Decade team (he also led the AFL in passer rating six times).
And then we have Kelly and Aikman, who along with Blanda, have probably the weakest set of All-Pro honors. Kelly was the AP 1st-team All-Pro QB in ’90, and a 2nd team choice in ’90 (by the NEA) and ’92 (by the AP). In 1993, Troy Aikman was named a 1st-team All-Pro by the Sporting News (Steve Young was the 1st-team choice by the Associated Press). In 1994, Aikman was the UPI 2nd-team All-Conference selection, behind Young again. In ’95, Aikman repeated as the UPI’s 2nd-team All-Conference choice, this time behind Brett Favre.
Oh, and finally, when we move to Eli Manning, we get… zero All-Pro honors, zero MVP awards, and zero All-Conference selections.
To sum, of the 29 HOF QBs, 28 of the 29 have been named a 1st-team All-Pro by a major organization at one point in their career. The 29th is Roger Staubach1, and this is something Brad Oremland wrote about last year. As Brad noted, Staubach actually led the league in total statistical production (based on Brad’s formula) four times:
Most years leading the league in QB-TSP:
1] Otto Graham, 6
2] Peyton Manning, 5
t3] Roger Staubach and Steve Young, 4
Staubach was a brilliant QB in a short career, essentially just eight seasons. Why does he rank below similar players like Graham (10 years), Young (8 years), and Rodgers (9 years)? Staubach didn’t have exceptional seasons. His highest TSP was 2294, and no major organization ever named him first-team all-pro. Paul Zimmerman, an admirer of the ’70s Cowboys, lamented in The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football, “Every time Roger had a good year, someone else picked that time to have a slightly better one.” TSP sees it the other way around, but it’s true that Staubach never posted the statistical production that normally suggests a first-team all-pro.
Staubach was great, and his fine postseason record doesn’t count toward TSP, but he wasn’t as outstanding as his four years leading the league would imply.
|Quarterback||1st Tm All-Pro Yrs|
|Norm Van Brocklin||2|
Further to that idea that Staubach was often the 2nd best quarterback in the NFL, we have 1971 and 1976-1979. Staubach was a 2nd-team All-Pro in ’71 by the PFW and NEA, and a 1st-team All-Conference choice by the AP and SN that season. In ’76, he was a 1st-team All-Conference choice by the SN and AP. In ’77 and ’79, he was a 1st-team All-Conference choice by the PFW, UPI, and SN, and PFW named him a 1st-team All-Conference choice in ’78, too. That’s five seasons with noteworthy honors for Staubach, even if he never was a first-team All-NFL pick.
Finally, let’s close with a list of all first-team All-Pro honors that went to Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
|Qb||Year||All-Pro 1st Tms|
|Aaron Rodgers||2014||AP; FW; PFF|
|Peyton Manning||2013||AP; FW; PFF|
|Peyton Manning||2012||AP; FW; PFF|
|Aaron Rodgers||2011||AP; FW; PFF; SN|
|Tom Brady||2010||AP; FW; SN|
|Peyton Manning||2009||AP; FW|
|Peyton Manning||2008||AP; FW|
|Tom Brady||2007||AP; FW; SN|
|Drew Brees||2006||AP; FW; SN|
|Peyton Manning||2005||AP; FW; SN|
|Peyton Manning||2004||AP; FW; SN|
|Peyton Manning||2003||AP; FW; SN|
|Kurt Warner||2001||AP; FW; SN|
|Kurt Warner||1999||AP; FW; SN|
|Brett Favre||1997||AP; FW; SN|
|Brett Favre||1996||AP; FW; SN|
|Brett Favre||1995||AP; FW; SN|
|Steve Young||1994||AP; FW; SN|
|Steve Young||1993||AP; FW|
|Steve Young||1992||AP; FW; NE; SN|
|Jim Kelly||1991||AP; FW; NE; PW; SN|
|Joe Montana||1990||AP; NE|
|Joe Montana||1989||AP; FW; NE; PW; SN|
|Joe Montana||1987||AP; FW; PW|
|John Elway||1987||NE; SN|
|Dan Marino||1986||AP; FW; PW; SN|
|Dan Marino||1985||AP; FW; SN|
|Dan Marino||1984||AP; FW; NE; PW; SN|
|Dan Fouts||1982||AP; FW; NE; PW|
|Dan Fouts||1979||AP; FW; NE; PW|
|Terry Bradshaw||1978||AP; FW; PW|
|Bob Griese||1977||AP; FW; NE; PW|
|Fran Tarkenton||1975||AP; FW; NE; PW|
|Ken Stabler||1974||AP; FW; NE; PW|
|Joe Namath||1972||FW; NE; PW|
|Bob Griese||1971||AP; FW; NE; PW|
|Joe Namath||1969||NE; NY|
|Joe Namath||1968||AP; FW; NE; NY; PW; *PW; UP|
|Johnny Unitas||1967||AP; NE; NY; UP|
|Joe Namath||1967||NE; NY|
|Bart Starr||1966||AP; FW; NE; NY; UP|
|Len Dawson||1966||AL; AP; NE; NY; UP|
|Johnny Unitas||1965||AP; NE; NY; UP|
|Johnny Unitas||1964||AP; NE; NY; UP|
|Y.A. Tittle||1963||AP; NE; NY; UP|
|Y.A. Tittle||1962||AP; NE; UP|
|Len Dawson||1962||AL; AP; UP|
|George Blanda||1961||AL; AP; NY; UP|
|Sonny Jurgensen||1961||AP; UP|
|Norm Van Brocklin||1960||AP; NE; NY; UP|
|Johnny Unitas||1959||AP; NE; NY; UP|
|Johnny Unitas||1958||AP; NE; NY; UP|
|Y.A. Tittle||1957||AP; NY; UP|
|Bobby Layne||1956||AP; NE; NY; UP|
|Otto Graham||1955||AP; NY; SN; UP|
|Norm Van Brocklin||1955||SN|
|Otto Graham||1954||AP; NY; SN; UP|
|Otto Graham||1953||AP; NY; UP|
|Otto Graham||1952||NY; UP|
|Otto Graham||1951||AP; NY; UP|
|Otto Graham||1949||AA; AP; NY; UP; *IN|
|Otto Graham||1948||AA; AP; UP|
|Otto Graham||1947||AA; AP; NY|
|Otto Graham||1946||AA; UP|
Yes, every quarterback who won two Super Bowls other than Jim Plunkett is in the Hall of Fame. Of course, every QB who won two Super Bowls other than Jim Plunkett also had a more accomplished career than Manning. In fact, other than Staubach, every QB in the Hall of Fame, Super Bowls or not, is more accomplished than Manning when it comes to first-team All-Pro selections.