MIAMI — Troy Aikman retired as a three-time Super Bowl champion and somehow became a more criticized quarterback over the next five years.
Suddenly, as he was up for Pro Football Hall of Fame selection, his career was reshaped as a zero-time All-Pro with just seven winning seasons out of 12 and a similar number of career touchdown passes (165) and interceptions (141).
So, if anybody understands the intricacies of two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame case, it’s Aikman. Manning retired from the Giants last week.
“He had a great career,” said Aikman, who will be the color commentator for Fox’s Super Bowl 2020 broadcast. “Those Super Bowl runs, I’d put those games and those runs up against anyone in the history of the game. He got them to that point. He’s the reason they won those Super Bowls.”
Manning’s final eight seasons after winning his second Super Bowl at the expense of the Patriots dynasty resulted in a 48-67 record — dropping his career regular-season mark to 117-117 — and just one playoff game as he climbed to No. 7 all-time in passing yards, touchdowns and completions, he endured two benchings and never made an All-Pro team.
“What’s hard is — and I went through it — you go through a career and you feel good about it,” Aikman said. “My guess is Eli’s thrilled with the career that he had. And he should be. … For me, I couldn’t have asked for more.
“Back then, social media didn’t exist. I wasn’t asked [about the Hall of Fame] on the day of my retirement. When it got closer, after five years, it was almost like I had to apologize or defend my career. That’s the part of it that really kind of sucks. I don’t like it for him. I don’t like the debate…. I don’t like the process we go through for the Hall of Fame.”
Manning will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in five years. The vote lies with a 48-person media panel, which includes two Hall of Fame former players (James Lofton and Dan Fouts), on Super Bowl weekend. Aikman was selected in 2006, his first year of eligibility.
“As far as saying is he a Hall of Famer or he is not a Hall of Famer,” Aikman said, “I don’t think any player should ever retire from football feeling they are a Hall of Fame player. I think it takes away from those that are in the Hall of Fame. If you are fortunate to be asked to join, you should join with hat in hand and feel good about it. I’ve never liked hearing a player complain about not being selected to the Hall of Fame.”
For more on Super Bowl 2020, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast:
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