Last week marked the one-year anniversary of New York Giants legend Eli Manning hanging up the cleats for good. Part of the two-time Super Bowl MVP’s media rounds on the day included an interview with former ESPN personality Trey Wingo on a showing of Half Forgotten History.
In the discussion, Manning turned back the clock 17 years ago to the 2004 NFL Draft to shed light on his decision to spurn the then-San Diego Chargers.
“That’s not an easy decision to make, and I had a lot of conversations with my dad, with my agent Tom Condon, with people around the NFL, with my brother,” Manning told Wingo. “It’s not something I necessarily wanted to do. I knew I would get backlash from it, and it was gonna cause a big uproar and things, and that’s not really my style. I don’t want to cause uproar, I really like to keep things peaceful and easy and low key. But we felt strongly about doing that and said it was not gonna be the right place. We had a little leverage to try to do it quietly and just tell San Diego, ‘Hey just don’t draft me. We won’t say anything, but I will hold out.’”
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Manning’s Pre-Draft Demands a Bluff?
While the Manning family was hopeful that their disdain towards joining the Chargers franchise would deter the organization from selecting him, the quarterback admitted that the whole thing may have just been one elaborate bluff.
“Whether I would have held out or not, no one knows,” he said. “It might have just been a big bluff, but we felt it was the right move to say that and to do that and see if we could convince them not to draft me. It was hard.”
Ultimately, Manning never had to make the decision of whether to hold out. The Chargers used the No. 1 overall selection on Manning but quickly dealt him to the Giants in exchange for No. 4 overall pick Philip Rivers and a slew of draft picks.
The rest is history. Manning went on to capture two Lombardi trophies during his time in East Rutherford, while Rivers put forth an illustrious, Hall of Fame level career. Water under the bridge, right?
Not so fast.
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Antonio Gates Takes Aim at Eli Manning
While Manning nudging his way out of San Diego was a dream turnout for the Giants organization and Big Blue faithful worldwide, his snub of sunny California doesn’t sit well with some within the Bolts franchise to this day.
Retired tight and future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates is a prime example.
“I think I was frustrated in terms of who gets drafted and worries about where they’re playing?” Gates told Zach Gelb on CBS Sports Radio, via WFAN New York. “As a high school and college kid, as you move up the ladder, your dream is about playing professional sports; at that moment, to me, you should be happier about being in a position to live a dream than worried about where it is.”
Gates went on to heap praise on Manning for what he was able to achieve during his time in New York. However, the Chargers’ all-time leading receiver zeroed in on Eli’s father, Archie Manning, for sticking his nose in place Gates clearly doesn’t believe it belonged.
“Eli still had a great career in New York, but it’s unfortunate that he had his father guide him in the way he thought was best for his son,” Gates said. “You see that with a lot of athletes, but for the most part, I felt like it was an honor and privilege to play, let alone in San Diego — who wouldn’t want to play in San Diego?”
Aside from the fact that even the Chargers themselves didn’t want to play in San Diego, jolting for Los Angeles in 2017, Eli claims that while his father may have helped him throughout the situation, the decision to reject the Chargers was ultimately his.
“I knew my dad took a lot of heat about it,” Manning said to Wingo. “He kind of helped me and wanted to take some of the heat off me and do some of the interviews, but it was not him doing this. It was not his decision.”
Eli Reacts to Philip Rivers’ Retirement
While Gates may feel a certain type of way, the past is the past. The tight end enjoyed 15 brilliant seasons working alongside Philip Rivers as his quarterback, posting 955 receptions, 11,841 receiving yards and 116 touchdowns, all franchise bests.
As for Rivers, he spent 16 seasons with the Chargers before attempting to make one last Super Bowl push with the Indianapolis Colts this season. While he may have fallen short of a ring, Rivers finished his career as the NFL’s fifth all-time leader in both passing yards (63,440) and touchdown passes (421).
When Rivers announced his retirement last week, Manning was quick to send his congrats the way of his fellow 2004 classmate.
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