In the 2004 NFL Draft, Ole Miss QB Eli Manning was chosen first overall by the San Diego Chargers. The Giants, who held the fourth overall selection, took QB Philip Rivers of NC State. Many prognosticators believed Miami of Ohio QB Ben Roethlisberger was the best of the bunch, but he fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 11.
By draft day, it became well-known that Eli was not going to sign with San Diego. It was also well-known that Giants’ GM Ernie Accorsi was enamored with him and was willing to trade Rivers and a package of picks to the Chargers to make that happen.
By the end of the day, Eli was a Giant and Rivers a Charger. The Giants also relinquished their third round selection in that draft (#65) and their first and fifth-round selections in 2005. At the time, experts reveled in the fact that the Giants were fleeced by San Diego GM AJ Smith. Time would prove otherwise.
All three QBs have had stellar careers thus far. Eli has led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins and was named MVP of both games. Roethlisberger has two rings as well, but he was not the MVP in either game. Rivers has played as well as both, but has yet to reach a Super Bowl.
Eli Manning Ole Miss / RD 1, PK 1 (1) NY Giants (via trade)
Career Stats: Games started: 147 Yards: 34,522 TDs: 226 INTs: 162 Completion %: 58.6 QB Rating: 82.0
Playoff Wins: 8 Super Bowl Wins: 2 Super Bowl MVPs: 2
Philip Rivers NC State / RD 1, PK 4 (4) San Diego (via trade)
Career Stats: Games started: 124 Yards: 31,524 TDs: 212 INTs: 102 Completion %: 64.3 QB Rating: 95.6
Playoff Wins: 3
Ben Roethlisberger Miami (OH) / RD 1, PK 11 (11) Pittsburgh
Career Stats: Games started: 138 Yards: 33,219 TD Passes: 212 INTs: 118 Completion %: 63.2 QB Rating: 92.7
Playoff Wins: 10 Super Bowl Wins: 2
Tom Coughlin was entering his first season as head coach and recalled the climate at the team’s headquarters that April:
“I remember Ernie Accorsi making that deal, of being 100 percent in belief that this was the right thing to do for our franchise. I remember that Ernie had studied Eli since he was a freshman in college and had really a strong, strong feeling about him.”
“I remember the fact that he had the confidence and the constitution, if you will, to push the deal through. It wasn’t an easy deal to make. I can remember him informing Mr. Mara what he was trying to do at the time and I’m sure Bob Tisch at the time as well. But it was a move that he made with great conviction.”
“Philip Rivers has had an outstanding career in San Diego and Eli Manning has had an outstanding career here, so I think you have a win-win situation there.”
More from Coughlin….
In all your years working with general managers, have you ever been around anybody who has had that much conviction about a player?
Yes. I think so. Sure.
Had you seen a lot of Eli at that point yourself?
I had seen him on tape and I had been to the workouts and that type of thing.
Do you remember the brain trust being very much in agreement at that time or do you remember Ernie (having to convince people)?
No. There was solid agreement. I don’t know that Ernie needed us, but he was convinced of what he wanted.
Do you remember doing much pre-draft work at all on Rivers?
Oh yeah. We did it all. I was at Philip Rivers’ workout, too, which was an outstanding workout as well. It was a good year.
How unusual is it to have both guys still starting for their teams 10 years later?
That’s a good question. I don’t know how unusual it is at that position, but to be playing as well as they’re playing, I don’t think that’s unusual either when you pick the right ones.