EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Eli Manning doesn’t feel comfortable talking about why he and his family didn’t want him to play in San Diego in 2004.
The New York Giants quarterback gets a sheepish look and says he really doesn’t remember why he spurned a city known for its mild climates and beaches.
It’s in the past, and he’ll keep it there.
The only reason it was resurrected Wednesday is that the Giants (5-7) are getting ready to play Rivers and the Chargers (5-7) in San Diego on Sunday.
It leaves many to wonder what would have happened had Manning played for the Chargers. Would they have won two Super Bowls with Manning in charge or would Rivers have been the guy who led New York to two titles and won two Super Bowl MVPs?
We’ll never know.
The bottom line was the Mannings told the Chargers that Eli didn’t want to play in southern California and it forced their hand on draft day in 2004. The Chargers took Manning with the No. 1 overall pick and traded him to the Giants for Philip Rivers — the No. 4 selection — and three other picks, including the Giants’ No. 1 in 2005.
The deal took 45 minutes to broker and Manning spent the time doing interviews at the theatre at Madison Square Garden, where the draft was held.
“It wasn’t an ideal situation,” Manning recalled. “We were prepared to go through with it and wait it out.”
In the end, then-Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi pulled off the deal that got New York its quarterback of the future. Manning then did a second round of interviews.
“I know I had more smiles the second time around,” Manning said Wednesday.
Rivers had an interesting take on the trade a decade later. Speaking on a conference call, he said he doubted the Giants would have drafted him unless the deal with the Chargers was ironed out, saying New York didn’t have much interest in him leading up to the draft.
Many believe the Giants intended to draft Ben Roethlisberger had they not been able to make the trade for Manning.
Manning and Rivers have kept an eye on each other’s careers, along with that of Roethlisberger, who has led the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles.
“I definitely have kept up with all of those guys and got to know them some and got to talk to them, but you’re kind of proud of your own class,” Manning said. “You kind of hope your class will go down as a good class of quarterbacks and players.”
This will be only the third time Manning has faced the Chargers in his career. He has never beaten them, losing 45-23 in 2005 when Drew Brees was the Chargers’ starter. Rivers took over the following year and led them to a 21-20 win over the Giants in 2009, guiding a late winning drive.