EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Eli Manning doesn’t feel comfortable talking about why he and his family didn’t want him to play in San Diego in 2004.
Can you blame him?
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 Philip 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 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.
“When the Giants drafted me, I thought something must be going on with San Diego,” Rivers recalled. “So I don’t think about it as much (what if) because I really don’t think it was as much of a possibility as it seemed.”
Giants coach Tom Coughlin recalled Accorsi’s conviction.
“I remember Ernie Accorsi making that deal, of being 100 percent in belief that this was the right thing to do for our franchise,” Coughlin said, later adding he believes the deal helped both teams.
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.”
Rivers obviously hopes to win a Super Bowl, too. But he doesn’t want to win just to get a ring.
“I want to experience it for our team and teammates and the guys we’ve played with for so long to experience getting to the top with one another,” Rivers said. “So you look back over the whole journey getting there, that’s what is most motivating, to stand at the top and say we did it, not that it got you in this category or this club.”
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.
Manning remembers both games, although that first one in San Diego was very loud and the crowd showed Manning a lot of “love.”
“I don’t know if love was the right word,” Manning said. “We’ll see what it’s like this year.”
Manning insists he has nothing against the city.
“We had our rookie symposium there, but besides that, I have been to San Diego for a few other things,” Manning said. “I know it’s a beautiful city and great weather and has a lot of great things to it.”
When asked what was wrong a decade ago, he hesitated.
“I just can’t remember it,” he said. “It’s been 10 years. It slipped my mind.”
NOTES: DE Justin Tuck was chosen NFC defensive player of the week for his four-sack performance against Washington. … DE Jason Pierre-Paul still hopes to play this season despite a shoulder injury that forced him to sit out last weekend. … LB Jon Beason, who had 17 tackles last weekend, reiterated he wants to play for the Giants in 2014. … CB Terrell Thomas is finally going to get a chance to play in his native Southern California after six seasons in the NFL. He had 67 tickets for the game and the count is going up daily.
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