A potentially loaded 2025 Hall of Fame class could make things tricky for Eli Manning getting in during his first crack at enshrinement.
News of Drew Brees legitimately considering retirement breaking yesterday got me thinking — what will the 2025 Hall of Fame class potentially look like? For Eli Manning supporters, the answer to that question isn’t great.
Courtesy of our buddy @WBG84 on Twitter (give him a follow, one of the best on Giants Twitter), the class could be loaded.
Obviously, it’s unlikely that all of these players will retire this off-season. Brees, for one, is probably just posturing and will likely return after posting the best statistical season of his career and playing for a loaded team in the last year of his contract.
However, you can make a serious case for the other four names here to all hang it up before the 2020 season kicks off. Adrian Peterson is probably the next least unlikely to retire after Brees, as the soon to be 35-year-old was productive last year to the tune of a 4.3 yards-per-carry average and five touchdowns. With an MVP on his resume, while being top-five all-time in rushing, Peterson’s HOF resume likely trumps Eli’s in most people’s eyes.
Early on in the 2019 campaign, Frank Gore was showing signs of still somehow having gas left in the tank, but he fell off hard over the last half of the season and Devin Singletary took over as the workhorse in Buffalo in earnest. Although he was never a superstar, Gore is stunningly third all-time in rushing yards, and runningbacks don’t get hammered for win/loss record like QB’s do, giving him a legit shot at getting in over Eli as a five-time Pro Bowler.
Jason Witten and Antonio Gates will both be first-ballot guys whenever they are eligible and they seem to be the two most likely on this list to hang it up. With a staggering 19 Pro Bowl appearances and 9 All-Pro teams between them, there’s almost no discussion on whether or not these two will have any trouble making it into Canton right away.
So where does that leave Eli Manning? In a potentially tricky place, unfortunately. Even if just 3/5 of the players mentioned retire (the most likely scenario – Witten, Gates, Gore), it puts Eli in an unfavorable position. He’d essentially be battling it out with dozens of other qualified candidates from the past for those last two slots.
Should any more of them decide to retire, Manning’s chances would become really bleak.
At the moment, there’s no reason to freak out over this possibility. A lot can change and happen over the course of an off-season, and especially five years. Maybe only one – or none – of them retire. Maybe the Eli Manning hate brigade has an epiphany over the next few seasons and realizes you can’t come close to telling the story of the NFL without Eli Manning (don’t count on it).
So while Eli Manning will likely ultimately have his enshrinement day at some point, you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think not getting in on the first ballot will hurt his future chances. Once the voters reject him once, it becomes easier and less taboo to do it again.
For now, all we can do is continue to fend off the misinformed and try not to get too emotional over others trying to minimize Eli Manning’s credentials – and maybe hope all of these guys come back for one more season.
***Editor’s note: We made a mistake regarding Antonio Gates’ eligibility. He will be eligible in 2023 – not 2024 – as his last game played was in 2018. Was working under assumption it was when retirement papers were finalized. Apologies.***