There have been two Super Bowl MVP performances, lots of big plays and lots of wins, but Eli Manning’s NFL life began more than 11 years ago.
I covered Eli’s draft in 2004, one in which he made more news than simply being the No. 1 pick … as if that wasn’t news enough.
San Diego held the No. 1 pick and used it to draft Eli days after the youngest Manning publicly pronounced that he would never sign with the Chargers.
My job then was less about covering the draft and all about chronicling Eli’s steps through it. There was no shortage of story lines.
Eli forced a smile when he shook hands with Paul Tagliabue as the No. 1 pick was announced amid boos from many in attendance at Madison Square Garden’s theater. Those who disagreed with Eli’s public disapproval of the Chargers also shouted “Daddy’s boy.”
Soon after his trade to the Giants was announced.
The Giants gave up a lot to get Eli: A third-round pick later in that 2004 draft, first- and fifth-round picks the next season, plus NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers, who they had just drafted with the No. 4 pick.
I’ve always found it interesting to watch the three quarterbacks most affected by Eli’s decision.
Two have been Super Bowl MVPs. Manning twice and Drew Brees once.
It was Brees who was being shipped off by the Chargers. He blossomed in New Orleans for which I am grateful.
Rivers has also had a successful career though one without a Super Bowl appearance.
Eli’s dad, Archie, was at the center of his son’s refusal to play for the Chargers. Archie, through his experiences and contacts with the NFL, was not pleased with the Chargers’ organization and simply didn’t believe it provided the best opportunity for his son to be successful.
This from my column that day: “When we make career choices as adults we use all advantages at our disposal. Archie Manning was Eli’s advantage, a trump card if you will, played at just the right time and with little hesitation.” …
The bottom line is as parents we want to do what’s best for our children regardless off their age or station in life.
That’s what Archie did and what Eli allowed him to do. It was a move that remains exceedingly rare but one that any No. 1 pick might be able to pull off if he wants to take the gamble. Most don’t have the Archie trump card, a dad with deep knowledge of the league, its people and how it works.
Archie expressed a concern that day that future No. 1 picks might do the same thing, but that hasn’t happened.
At least that time, with the 2004 draft, it looks like it’s worked out for Eli and not so badly for the other two affected quarterbacks.