Eli Manning retirement: Jets legend Joe Namath thinks ex-Giants star might be the best N.Y. QB ever
Broadway Joe doesn't care who agrees with him about Manning
It's a bold statement, but then again it's coming from Joe Namath, a man who doesn't make statements that aren't. After all, this is "Broadway Joe" we're talking about. He's the same guy who literally guaranteed his New York Jets would upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, despite entering the game as massive 18-point underdogs. Namath made good on his promise, downing the Colts with a 16-7 final score, getting named Super Bowl MVP and propelling himself into the sports stratosphere.
Still, even with that and a gold jacket on his resume, he openly bends the knee to Eli Manning — who recently announced his retirement from the New York Giants. Namath didn't pull any punches when explaining why he feels Manning might be the best quarterback to ever play in New York — not Charlie Conerly or Phil Simms — going so far as refusing to even put himself in the same conversation as the two-time Super Bowl MVP.
"I was pretty good and did some things [but] Eli, I marveled at," Namath said, via the New York Post. "He was remarkable. I wouldn't compare myself to Eli. He's done far more than I ever did on the field."
While true, there are many who will always hold Namath in more reverence than Manning, with many questioning if the latter deserves to be inducted next to the former in Canton, Ohio once he becomes eligible in a minimum of five years from now. With a regular season record of 117-117, including only one winning season in his last seven, there's grounds for those who feel as if he should be held out.
Namath scoffs at such debate, and also doesn't want to hear anyone play the "what if" game — projecting how many more achievements Namath would've had in the NFL had he not often battled injury.
"If, if, if," he said. "It's bulls–t. The games [Eli] played — the durability [and] the playoffs. I remember early on he was getting some heat, he didn't always smile much, but every player that's ever played with Eli swears by his work ethic and his character."
What the two have in common does go far beyond having simply piloted their respective New York team to the top of the NFL mountain, but there's poignancy in just how they did it, even when factoring in the two Super Bowls won by Simms. While Namath toppled the almighty Colts in his heyday, and Simms himself is a former Super Bowl MVP, Manning was a Giant playing the role as David hoping to slay the actual giant, namely Tom Brady and the unstoppable New England Patriots.
There was no better example of this than the 2007 season, when the Patriots delivered the first 16-0 record in league history thanks in large part to the potency of a Randy Moss-Tom Brady tandem.
The team's only loss that season was the one that mattered more than any other could, when Manning and Big Blue landed a massive 17-14 upset in Super Bowl XLII. A lot of things had to go right for that to happen, and that includes a defense that sacked Brady five times, but the end result was Manning's first-ever ring, and one part of a two-part story that reads "Tom Brady Has Never Defeated Eli Manning in the Super Bowl."
Even Brady himself offered up a salute to Manning, for that very reason.
"Congratulations on your retirement and a great career Eli!" the six-time Super Bowl winner wrote. "Not going to lie though, I wish you hadn't won any Super Bowls."
For such reasons and more, the legendary Namath isn't afraid to bow out when Manning's name enters the conversation.