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NY Jets: The silly Rodgers-Manning debate isn’t much of a debate

Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, C.J. Stroud, NY Jets, NY Giants
Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, New York Jets, New York Giants, Getty Images

C.J. Stroud caused unnecessary hoopla by comparing Aaron Rodgers’ and Eli Manning’s careers

Winning isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.

This quote, often misattributed to Vince Lombardi, supposedly summarizes the mindset of a champion. Lombardi’s Packers won five championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. Many consider Bill Belichick to have surpassed Lombardi by winning six Super Bowls. Tom Brady is widely named the greatest quarterback of all time due to his seven championships, and he surpassed Joe Montana, who had four.

On the surface, the measure of any coach or quarterback starts with how many championships they won. After all, isn’t that the goal of all the work every season?

I’ve always found this attitude to be fallacious, though, especially as a sports fan. Is the measure of success in sports only based on winning that ring, a 1-in-32 chance every season? Is a coach only great if he manages to win the big one multiple times?

In many ways, this is a faulty way of looking at life itself. If life is only about the destination, almost all of us are failures. After all, how many of us actually get to the top of our professions? Focusing only on the endgame saps the joy out of life. Life is a long journey, and if we measure success by reaching ever-mounting goals, we miss the trees for the forest.

Jets fans fondly remember the 1982 team, the 1998 team, and the 2009-10 runs. Those teams didn’t win it all. Does that mean they were failures?

Ultimately, in my opinion, being a great player during the regular season, year after year, does count for something. Josh Allen isn’t any less of a quarterback because he hasn’t yet won a Super Bowl. Dan Marino, the greatest example of them all, never won a ring. Meanwhile, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, and Jeff Hostetler brought home the hardware. I’ve always felt that the championship argument surrounding the Hall of Fame is stupid. Ultimately, football is a team sport, no matter how important the quarterback is.

Therefore, for C.J. Stroud to say that he would prefer Eli Manning’s career to Aaron Rodgers’ misses the boat. Manning won two rings but never won another playoff game. While his 15:2 TD:INT ratio in those eight games was pristine, he threw just 3 touchdowns and 7 picks in his other four playoff games. Rodgers, meanwhile, has a 45:13 TD:INT ratio in his playoff career with a 100.1 passer rating. Is it his fault an onside kick went off his teammates’ hands and he played with so many bad defenses?

To put Manning’s career into a more familiar context, consider that Eli had won more championships than his brother Peyton until Peyton’s final season. Did that mean Eli had a better or more worthwhile career than Peyton up until that point? And does Peyton’s second ring, won on the back of his elite defense, suddenly vault him up into his brother’s category?

Rodgers and Peyton Manning were far superior quarterbacks to Eli. Eli will go into the Hall of Fame because he was a New York quarterback who beat Tom Brady twice in the Super Bowl, but he doesn’t deserve to be there. He was a mediocre quarterback for most of his career, and his best attribute was durability. He had three separate seasons when he threw at least 20 interceptions, including 27 in 2013.

Meanwhile, Peyton is a five-time NFL MVP, and Rodgers is a four-time winner. These were among the top three quarterbacks in the NFL for virtually their entire careers. There’s no comparing Rodgers and Eli.

There’s so much more to football than just winning championships. Obviously, that’s the ultimate goal. But only 1 in 32 teams will get there each season, and the odds that it will be any given player’s team are not high. Even Patrick Mahomes has had his struggles in the playoffs at times, and he might not have even gotten to the Super Bowl in 2023 if not for his defense.

So let’s put Stroud’s argument about Eli Manning to bed. Aaron Rodgers is in the conversation as a top all-time passer. Manning was a durable but mostly average passer who went on two magical runs. They’re not close to the same.

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