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Chargers draft Eli, then trade him to Giants

4/28/2004 - San Diego Chargers

NEW YORK -- After a tense hour in which Eli Manning was a
prospective law student, the NFL's first family of quarterbacks got
what it wanted.

Eli will be a New York Giant.

In one of the more bizarre first hours in recent draft history,
Manning was taken with the first pick by the San Diego Chargers,
for whom he later announced he wouldn't play.

Manning then appeared on the stage at The Theatre of Madison
Square Garden with his parents, Archie and Olivia, looking as glum
as any No. 1 pick ever has as commissioner Paul Tagliabue held up a
Chargers jersey with "1" on it.

An hour later, as Eli Manning walked away from the podium at a press
conference in which he insisted he would pursue the law, someone
rushed into the room to say the Giants just obtained him for
another quarterback, Philip Rivers, who they had taken with the
fourth overall pick.

"I'm a lot happier now than I was 10 minutes ago," Manning
said, jumping back on the podium. He then returned to the main room
for a much happier picture, this one including brother Peyton and
agent Tom Condon, the man behind the maneuvering.

The crowd at Madison Square Garden booed lustily when Eli
Manning's name was first called. They yelled just as
loudly when the trade was announced.

"It is nothing new. I've heard boos before," Manning said.
"I've been in a lot of stadiums where they've booed."

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said that contrary to speculation, it was not prearranged
that the Chargers would pick Manning and the Giants would take
Rivers, then swap them.

"Absolutely not," Smith said. "Matter of fact, that was a
surprise to us. There were a lot of scenarios in our mind and that
was one we were not aware of. There's dialogue throughout the
draft, and boy there was a lot of dialogue then."

Smith wasn't forthcoming with specifics.

"We know there's twists and turns to this story that's
developed that we're not commenting on. It's quite obvious he
didn't want to be here, as far as that family," Smith said.

"The San Diego Chargers have a strategy," Smith added. "We know exactly what
we're doing. We executed that pick with Eli Manning and the rest of
it unfolded, and I don't want to reveal how we think in the
building. We're very proud of what happened, too, by the way."

The Giants are proud too -- although some may think the club gave up too much in the trade.

"I don't consider that the store," Giants general manager
Ernie Accorsi said of the deal.

"We all had the unanimous opinion this was a special
quarterback, and you don't get a chance very many times, for
decades, to select someone like him."

The trade also all but guaranteed that quarterback Kerry
Collins' career with the Giants will end either in the very near
future or after the 2004 season at the latest.

Collins is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $7
million in salary, with an $8.95 million salary cap value.

"Obviously I'm disappointed it has to end, but that's life in
the NFL," Collins said. "If I am here this year, I will give them
everything I have.

After this year, Manning will be running the show.

"What I saw in Manning was a classic prospect," said Accorsi,
who also drafted John Elway and Bernie Kosar. "Size, arm,
tremendous athletic ability and feet, poise, class. Probably more
important than the obvious physical attributes that you have to
have is the fact that he lifted his team."

Meanwhile, the rest of the draft went on around that soap opera.

With the second pick, Oakland took offensive tackle Robert
Gallery of Iowa and with the third, Arizona chose wide receiver
Larry Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh, a ball boy for Cardinals coach
Dennis Green when Green coached in Minnesota.

Washington then chose safety Sean Taylor of Miami, who was the
first of six Hurricanes chosen in the opening round, a record.

Cleveland paid a high price simply to move up one spot for Miami
tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. The Lions got the Browns' first-round
pick and their second.

The Lions then took Texas wide receiver Roy Williams, who like
Taylor and Winslow ranked as players with long-term star potential.
And they used a second-round pick to move up late in the first to
choose Kevin Jones of Virginia Tech, considered by some the best
running back in the draft.

"We felt the second round was a pretty good price to pay,"
Browns coach Butch Davis said of the deal that brought him Winslow,
who he had recruited for Miami. "He's going to bring a lot of
energy and help this offense. He's a lightning rod."

That was typical of the round.

Five wide receivers went in the first 15 picks and six players
from Miami in the first 21: Taylor, Winslow; linebackers Jonathan
Vilma by the New York Jets and D.J. Williams by Denver; guard
Vernon Carey by Miami and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork by New
England.

That broke a record for most picks from one school in the entire
first round, set by Southern California in 1968 and tied by the
Hurricanes in 2002.

There were a total of 10 trades, including the Manning
headliner.

The Giants seemed delighted, implying that Eli could be as good
as his brother Peyton, the NFL's co-MVP last season for
Indianapolis.

"We all had the unanimous opinion this was a special
quarterback, and you don't get a chance very many times, for
decades, to select someone like him," Accorsi said.

But the Chargers made out wonderfully.

Not only did they get Rivers, who completed 72 percent of his
passes last season at North Carolina State, but they also got the
Giants' third-round pick this year and their first and fifth next
season. The third quarterback considered on a par with Manning and
Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger of Miami of Ohio, ended up going to
Pittsburgh with the 11th overall choice.

"We selected Eli and we were prepared to deal with that," the Chargers' Smith said, bringing up the comparison
to John Elway, who in 1983 forced a trade to Denver after being
chosen by Baltimore with the first pick. "When the New York Giants
selected Philip Rivers, some dialogue took place. Let's just leave
it at that. Obviously we know how it materialized."

One startling deal was Buffalo acquiring Dallas' first-round
pick, 22nd overall, to take the fourth quarterback of the round,
J.P. Losman of Tulane. In return, the Bills surrendered their
first-round pick next year and a second- and fifth-rounder this
year. Like the Giants and Browns in their deals, they gave up more
than the going rate hoping for a player who will have a huge
impact.

Philadelphia moved up 12 spots to 16 to take offensive tackle
Shawn Andrews of Arkansas, who is even bigger than coach Andy Reid.
Andrews has weighed as much as 400 pounds and is now listed at 366.

Minnesota and Miami swapped picks at 19 and 20, the Dolphins
moving up one spot to take Carey and the Vikings choosing Southern
Cal defensive end Kenechi Udeze with the next choice.

Then St. Louis moved up two spots to take running back Steven
Jackson of Oregon State, dealing their own pick at 26 to
Cincinnati. The Bengals chose Michigan running back Chris Perry
with that choice.

Houston acquired the 27th overall pick from Tennessee and used
it to take defensive end Jason Babin of Western Michigan. In
return, the Titans got Houston's second, third, and fourth-round
picks.

Before the start of the draft, commissioner Paul Tagliabue paid
tribute to Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals safety who
gave up his NFL career to serve as an Army Ranger and was killed
this week in Afghanistan.

"Pat Tillman personified the best values of America and of the
National Football League," Tagliabue said, flanked by five
Marines. "Like other men and women protecting our freedom around
the globe, he made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life for his
country."

A moment of silence then was held in Tillman's honor, after
which the crowd at Madison Square Garden chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A."