EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Eight newly minted Pro Football Hall of Famers will officially take their place in Canton on Saturday night, and it's easy to envision Eli Manning doing the same sometime around 2025.
The truth, though, is his road to Canton may not be so easy after all.
Though he'll eventually retire as the greatest quarterback in Giants history with Hall of Fame-caliber numbers and two championship rings, Manning isn't necessarily a lock to be voted into the Hall immediately. He's a virtual lock to be among the group of 15 finalists the first year he's eligible, but after that, his candidacy gets complicated.
And while the two New York media representatives on the 46-person selection committee both agree that Manning should -- and will -- get in eventually, it might take some convincing, especially in his first year.
"I do think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I do think he will get in the Hall of Fame. I don't know that it will be a first-ballot situation," said Bob Glauber, Newsday's NFL columnist. "I think there'll be questions about just the statistical compilation. It doesn't jump out at you as 'Oh, this guy is a John Elway or Dan Marino or Peyton Manning.' He just doesn't have those numbers. He hasn't had those incredible regular seasons that a lot of these Hall of Famers had.
"And I think some people will look at him as those Super Bowls were somewhat of an aberration. That's why with Eli there'll be some debate and there'll be a lot of discussion about it, and I can see where it would take him a couple of years to get in."
"There's no doubt in my mind that I will vote for him on the first ballot and any year thereafter," added Gary Myers, the former NFL columnist for the New York Daily News. "But he's had a very bizarre career being that the only time he's won a playoff game are the two times he won a Super Bowl."
The 37-year-old has had a bizarre career and it's unclear how the selection committee will view it, especially as they undertake the annual, impossible task of whittling a field of 15 finalists to 10. and then to only a final five who get in. The sheer glut and backlog of Hall-worthy candidates makes it tough enough - just ask Michael Strahan, a slam-dunk candidate who had to wait until his second year on the ballot.
But Manning is going to be measured against -- and possibly could compete directly against -- a star-studded quarterback group from his generation that includes, among others, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers.
And therein lies Manning's biggest problem: He may finish in the Top 10 in many of the NFL's passing categories, he might be one of just 12 quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowls, and one of only five men to win two Super Bowl MVPs -- both of which he won with last-minute, game-winning drives, including one where he pulled off a miracle upset against what was thought to be the greatest team in NFL history back in Super Bowl XLII.
But, especially outside of New York, he's not generally considered to be one of the top quarterbacks of his generation. At best, he ranks fifth. Some rank him lower than that.
And considering that in his last six years since the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, he's had too many mediocre or just plain bad seasons. Being that he's also had four losing seasons and been to the playoffs only once since that championship, it's possible that in the face of stiff competition, his great accomplishments could be even easier for voters to dismiss.
"There's no doubt a strong finish would help his cause, so the argument against him can't be 'Well he played great in those two runs but he never won a playoff game in another year,'" said Myers, author of How 'Bout Them Cowboys, due out this October. "But my counter-argument would be it wasn't as if he just went along for the ride like a Brad Johnson or Trent Dilfer. He was the reason they won the game at the end.
"But I do agree. He doesn't need to win another championship or get to the Super Bowl again. But I think a strong ending to his career with one or two playoff victories would really put an exclamation on his candidacy."
That's probably unfair, but it's Manning's reality. Even among Giants fans, there have been times where it hasn't felt like he's been truly appreciated. The championship runs were wonderful, but how many times has the defense been given most of the credit? And how often, especially shortly after it happened, was the upset of the undefeated Patriots dismissed as a fluke?
Doing that has become easier as Manning and the Giants have struggled in recent years - especially from the outside where others may see Manning as a main reason for the Giants' decline. That's where the convincing comes in from those who have seen him up close.
"I think the entirety of his career does matter and it's a fair argument how he did after the two Super Bowls," said Glauber, author of Guts and Genius (due out in November), the story of how Bill Parcells, Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs once dominated the NFL. "I think you look at some extenuating circumstances. That roster kind of fell apart and that offensive line was not good. And being a pocket passer if your protection breaks down, you're going to pay for it more than most. I think that's what happened to him."
Those circumstances, though, will be held against Manning by some. It may take them a while to see through those lean years and fully appreciate the great ones.
"I know the strongest argument for him will be these two incredibly pressure-filled moments of his career that nobody could have possibly done it better than he did on those two Super Bowl drives," Myers said. "The fact that in the biggest moments in the two biggest games he ever played, he was near-perfect, that's good enough for me. That's the definition of a Hall of Fame player."
Will enough voters feel that way? Probably. At least eventually. But unless his first year is a thin year on the ballot, it probably won't happen immediately. More likely it will take the voters a little time.
The good news, though, is that in Manning's case, especially with a five-year waiting period before he's eligible, time really can be on his side.
"I think that when we reflect on what he accomplished after sitting aback and thinking about it, I think his accomplishments will outweigh some of the negatives," Myers said. "What he did against the Patriots in those two Super Bowls, against Belichick's defense, and with the quarterback on the other side who's probably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, I think there'll be more of an appreciation for what he did than maybe there is now."