#5-Who’s the Manning?

It’s been 17 years since the Chargers made Eli Manning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Their very next move would change the trajectory of the New York Giants franchise forever.

Early on in the 2004 NFL Draft process, the Manning team made it abundantly clear there was no desire for their star Quarterback to play football in San Diego. The Chargers held the #1 overall pick and had first rights to the historically talented QB draft class. Several factors weighed in on Eli and his inner circle while pondering his future with San Diego.

  • Recent failures by the team to develop a young Quarterback,
  • The small market marketing opportunity
  • The Charger’s consistent failures to build a championship team

“Going through the draft process, I was just worried about the Chargers organization at the time. I felt it was the right decision and I had a little pull. I quietly tried to say ‘Hey, please don’t draft me, it can be our secret,’ and they didn’t keep the secret part very well.”

– Eli Manning

Unfortunately for team Manning, the Chargers were in the driver’s seat, and they had their sights set on drafting the Heisman-winning Quarterback. Eli’s camp had communicated their feelings and even threatened to sit out the entire 2004 season, and re-enter the draft portal in 2005. Chargers GM AJ Smith stood firm on his position of drafting Eli and was quoted saying “When I heard emphatically from Tom Condon and Archie Manning ‘don’t take us,’ that hit me — call me a traditionalist — it hit me the wrong way,” Smith said. “I decided I was not going to play this game with them and I flipped it.” By all accounts it looked like Eli Manning would either be playing in San Diego or skipping the 2004 season altogether.

The Ernie Accorsi Plan: 

The Giants learned of Manning’s desire to play in a bigger market and began plotting a trade almost instantly to acquire him. The Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi needed his franchise quarterback and wanted to strike a deal with San Diego. However, Accorsi was worried that making first contact would ruin any leverage he had. He also knew the Giants had an appealing backup plan in case no deal for Manning materialized.

“I had a great backup position because of [Miami of Ohio quarterback Ben] Roethlisberger. We loved Roethlisberger.”

Ernie Accorsi

However no pre-draft deal was made, and Eli Manning was indeed selected #1 overall and holds the unique distinction of being a San Diego Charger for less than an hour. Following the Chargers pick, the trade came together quickly thanks to an interesting move by the Chargers GM. Smith says he leaked the exact time he was planning to call the Giants to initiate trade talks. Smith knew that information would get back to Accorsi, who could then take his time to figure out what offers they would accept to get Manning. When Smith called, it didn’t come as a surprise to Accorsi.

Eventually, a deal was worked out, sending Eli Manning to New York. The Chargers traded Manning—the No. 1 overall pick to the Giants.  In exchange, San Diego received the following from New York: Philip Rivers, the Giants’ third-round pick in 2004 along with their first and fifth-round selections in the 2005 draft. The deal almost hit a snag with AJ Smith refusing to move forward with talks unless Defensive End Osi Umenyiora was included in the deal.

But cooler heads would prevail, and Eli Manning was officially a New York Giant.