MIAMI, Fla. -- Last Friday, Eli Manning officially retired from the NFL after a 16-year career with the New York Giants.
Manning has been a lightning rod for debate for most of his career. The quarterback came into the league by declaring he wouldn't play for the San Diego Chargers if they drafted him No. 1 overall. He went on to win two Super Bowl titles, beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots both times. He had a number of unspectacular years, some due to the lack of talent surrounding him and others due to his penchant for turning the ball over.
The younger brother of Peyton, Eli finished his career at an even 117-117. Once news of his retirement broke, the debate about whether or not Eli Manning will find himself enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day immediately took off.
To the detractors, his years of mediocre play and the fact that he never was one of the elite quarterbacks in the game means he should have to sit outside and Canton and wonder about what life is like in the immortal hall.
But to others, Richard Sherman included, Eli Manning belongs in the Hall.
"I do think Eli is a Hall of Famer," Sherman said Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night as the 49ers prepare to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. "I think people underestimate what it means to run through the Super Bowl as an away team. There's a reason so few low seeds have ever won a Super Bowl. And I would say his two teams he's done it with are probably 30 to 40 percent of the low seeds that have won Super Bowls. And for that alone he deserves."
"And he's played at a high level," Sherman continued. "The teams haven't always been great, he hasn't always been surrounded by talent and when he has he's played pretty well. But to run through the playoffs and beat some of the teams he beat, and then to beat the greatest quarterback of all-time twice, and two of the best teams of all-time. He beat an undefeated team who had Randy Moss on it who had just come off a record-breaking season.
"Like, who does that? How do you do that? And so for those reasons, I believe he's a Hall of Famer. Those are Hall of Fame things. You can't not put that guy in the Hall of Fame."
Per usual, Sherman hit the nail on the head.
In the seeding era, seven teams have won the Super Bowl that were seeded fourth or lower. Manning's Giants were two of them.
He didn't have the raw numbers of Dan Marino or the everlasting greatness of the man he beat twice on the biggest stage, Tom Brady. But Eli Manning was one of the best clutch playoff performers in recent NFL history.
During the run to his first Super Bowl title in the 2007 playoffs, Manning knocked off Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round before beating Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers in a frigid NFC Championship Game.
Then, in the 2011 playoffs, he beat Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in the wild-card round before again knocking off Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau Field and then beating the 49ers in the NFC title game at Candlestick Park.
Both times, Brady and the Patriots were waiting for him. Both times, Manning snatched the Lombardi Trophy away from Bill Belichick and the NFL's evil empire.
Manning's escape act and subsequent prayer to David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII was a "where were you" moment in sports history. His throw to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI was one of best throws in Super Bowl history (no, that isn't hyperbole).
Eli Manning's Hall of Fame case was made long ago. All that's left, is to make the bust.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).
Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.