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Years later, Eli Manning talks about 2004 draft-day trade to Giants

Eli Manning Giants
Eli Manning
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

After 17 years, a career that led to two Super Bowl victories and a place in the top 10 of a number of all-time quarterback lists, Eli Manning finally talked about why he didn’t want to play for the San Diego Chargers, the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004.

“It was my decision having talked with my agent, coaches, [general managers] and owners,” Manning said on the “10 Questions with Kyle Brandt” podcast, which was posted Thursday.

“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 of it real well.”

At the time, the Chargers hadn’t had a winning season in 10 years and were 1-15 in 2000 – the same season the Giants lost Super Bowl XXXV to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Chargers took Manning No. 1, then traded him within an hour to the New York Giants for No. 4 overall draft pick Philip Rivers and three future draft picks. Taken between them were Robert Gallery at No. 2 to the Oakland Raiders, who turned out to be a bust, and future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Many people long have speculated that Manning’s father, Archie, was behind the play to keep Eli out of San Diego. Eli said that wasn’t true.

“My dad just tried to take some heat off of me,” Manning said. “He knew I’d get criticized, he didn’t love the idea of it at first just because it was going to cause a lot of drama.”

The trade worked out for both teams.

Both Manning and Rivers are the all-time leading passers for their teams. Manning threw for 57,023 yards, Rivers for 63,440 yards in 16 seasons with the Chargers, and one with the Indianapolis Colts. Rivers is fifth all-time in passing yards and Manning is eighth.

Manning was a two-time Super Bowl MVP; Rivers was named to the Pro Bowl eight times.

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