Phillip Rivers and Eli Manning will for always be linked due to the way they came into the NFL.
The 2004 NFL draft was underway at Madison Square Garden in New York and Eli Manning was projected to go number 1. The problem – San Diego had the first pick of the draft and Eli Manning had already told everyone that would listen that he did not intend to play for San Diego if they picked him first.
The crowd quiets as NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue walked to the podium and readied himself to make the announcement.
And then it came …
“With the first pick of the 2004 NFL draft – the San Diego Chargers select — Eli Manning”
Well there it is, the Chargers did not grant Eli’s request, Manning walked to the stage and stood next to commissioner Paul Tagliabue to pose for pictures, holding the Chargers jersey with the number 1 on it.
The Boos coming from the crown were overwhelming – who knew there were so many San Diego fans in New York, or were they Giants fans that wanted San Diego to skip over Manning as he had requested so they could get Peyton’s younger brother as their quarterback?
Philip Rivers was later selected 4th overall by the NY Giants.
Then – the trade – Manning goes to New York for Rivers and picks which amounted to the Chargers acquiring LB Shawne Merriman and K Nate Kaeding.
Eli Manning was interviewed shortly after being picked by the San Diego Chargers:
How many balls do you expect to throw for the San Diego Chargers?
ELI MANNING: Right now, obviously, we feel strongly about what we’ve said earlier this week. Everybody knows how we stand about this position. You know, it’s an honor to be selected the first pick, but again it’s not what we wanted.
Your father had no control over his first employer, your brother had no control over his first employer and now you have no control over your first employer; how frustrating is this?
ELI MANNING: It’s part of the deal. Obviously, we would have liked for things to run smoothly, but obviously that did not happen. This was released the other day; it wasn’t our plan to release it but the Chargers went out and did it. We were prepared for that but that’s how things worked.
Don’t you think everybody should have the right to negotiate with all the possible employers?
ELI MANNING: That’s not how the NFL works and that’s how it’s gone on for a long time. Again we felt strongly about doing what we did.
What is your thinking about going out on the podium; you said there might be some reservation doing that?
ELI MANNING: Obviously, it’s an important day for the NFL and the Draft is a special time. I did not want to cause a scene; already caused one in a way. I did not want to embarrass the Commissioner and do anything out of the ordinary. Felt it was important to do what everybody else does.
Was Pat Tillman on your mind when you did that?
ELI MANNING: Obviously when something like that happens, the things that are going on today in the Draft, all of this, it seems very unimportant. It does not seem that this is important and obviously, Pat Tillman and his family have been in my prayers this whole week and my family’s prayers. It’s a sad story.
How difficult was it to hear the chorus of boos?
ELI MANNING: It’s not hard to hear boos. It’s something that I’ve been used to. I’ve played in a lot of opponent’s stadiums in the SEC where I’ve been booed many times before. It’s a funny situation and you have to laugh it off.
What’s your biggest challenge going into next season whoever you’re with?
ELI MANNING: I think the biggest challenge will be getting used to the NFL, the speed of things, the complexity of defenses, learning a new offense, and trying to get into a rhythm with the receivers. There’s a lot of things that are not easy, but I think you’ve just got to work hard and be determined to get better.
Have you had any contact with A.J. Smith in the last three days?
ELI MANNING: I have not talked to A.J. Smith or anybody from the Chargers in the last three days.
What makes the San Diego situation so unappealing, specifically?
ELI MANNING: You know, we are not really mentioning details right now. We’ve talked to San Diego about this. We felt strongly about what we wanted to do and we thought it was in the best interests for me.
You were talking on the phone right after you were picked; who were you speaking with?
ELI MANNING: Right then I was speaking with A.J. Smith just briefly and Coach Schottenheimer and just nothing much was said, just congratulations and we’ll see what happens.
Are you expecting a trade with the Giants?
ELI MANNING: I don’t know what to expect anymore. It’s too hard to say. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next day, the next two days, the next to month or two months. So again, I don’t know what’s going to happen, and hopefully, you know, we’d like for a trade to happen, not with any team, so that’s what we are hoping for.
Is endorsements part of the package?
ELI MANNING: Endorsements had nothing to do with anything. It had nothing to do with anything.
Your thoughts on joining Peyton as the No. 1 pick?
ELI MANNING: Obviously, it’s a great honor to be selected as a first pick in the NFL Draft. I’ve worked hard to be in this situation and obviously, you go into a list of a few people who have been selected first. So it is a great honor, but obviously, it’s not how we wanted everything to work out.
But being with Peyton?
ELI MANNING: Being with Peyton, my brother selected 1 and me being selected first, obviously it’s something that doesn’t happen every day. So it’s a new experience, and it’s just a great honor to be mentioned with Peyton.
Are you disappointed the Giants didn’t trade up for you?
ELI MANNING: I’m not disappointed the Giants didn’t trade up for me. I didn’t know if they were going to trade up. I don’t know what their position was. So, obviously we were hoping for something to happen, a trade or for the Chargers not to pick me but obviously that’s the way it worked out. We’ll make the best out of the whole situation.
If the Chargers are not able to work out a trade, are you prepared if necessary to sit out next season?
ELI MANNING: We’ve talked about it and we’re prepared to do that.
Have you thought about graduate school?
ELI MANNING: I’ve not thought about grad school but maybe I’ll start to think about it.
What are you going to do the rest of the day? Normally you would go San Diego but what will you be doing now?
ELI MANNING: I think I’m just going to go back to the hotel and sit around and maybe watch the rest of the Draft and see who else is going to get selected.
Do you have any plans to go out there tonight or tomorrow?
ELI MANNING: I do not. I have no plans to go out there.
Was there an immediate emotional reaction when your name came up?
ELI MANNING: Obviously, it’s kind of mixed emotions. You’re excited about being selected the first pick because it is a great honor, but again, it’s not a pick that we wanted in this sense. So, you know, you just kind of go out there and it’s very thrilling and it’s a great honor.
If you could pick a team, what team would that be?
ELI MANNING: You know, I haven’t picked teams. I never said I wanted to play for a certain team. It did not matter to me. It’s just, you know, I don’t have any favorites. I don’t know.
In terms of sitting out this season, saying you’re prepared to do that, doesn’t that mean that you will not play for the Chargers?
ELI MANNING: Yes.
Have you thought at all about the fact that if you don’t play there and you go back to the Draft next year that as bad as they are and as bad as they have been that they could be in the same position next year?
ELI MANNING: You try not to think about that. Hopefully it won’t get to that position.
The odds are it won’t get to that position, but when it does resolve itself, will you discuss why San Diego was not a good situation? You can understand the curiosity.
ELI MANNING: I understand. We’ll think about it. I don’t know if it will get released or not.
Are you surprised San Diego went to three minutes on the clock before they picked you?
ELI MANNING: Again, you don’t know what’s happening in those back rooms. You don’t know if other teams are calling or what their process is or what their thinking is. I don’t know what to expect. You’re sitting there for those 15 minutes, and anything can happen. You’ve just got to sit and wait.
There were skeptics that think you won’t necessarily sit out; that money might be a factor. Would you address that and just tell us how serious you are about sitting out?
ELI MANNING: Obviously, we stand strong about what we said earlier this week and everything we’ve said. We’ve talked about it and we feel very strongly about it.
Was there any serious discussions about you joining the Chargers at any point in this process?
ELI MANNING: No, we haven’t talked about that at all.
At no point?
ELI MANNING: No.
So it’s no wonder why the San Diego fans have an intense dislike for the Eli Manning. He wanted no part of being a member of the Chargers and he has since gone on to win a Super Bowl for the city of New York.
Rivers started out his NFL career watching from the bench as Drew Brees was still the starting quarterback for San Diego, but Rivers got his chance to take over when Brees went to the Saints – many fans disagreed with the decision but Rivers has shown since that he is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
So here we are, finally, the two quarterbacks will meet head to head Sunday when Philip Rivers and he Chargers travel to New York to take on Eli Manning and the Giants.
Both quarterbacks have downplayed the meeting, it’s just another game right? Well maybe, but Manning and Rivers would not be human if they did not play back the events of the 2004 draft in their minds a few times before Sunday. Both teams are fortunate to have drafted their franchise quarterback, but which team did better in the trade?
Only time will tell but one thing is for sure – there will be tremendous hype building up to Sunday’s game – Manning and Rivers finally squaring off head to head – NFL fans in New York in San Diego will be watching, and judging, very closely.