In 2004, two teams with losing seasons made one of the most talked about trades in NFL history, and of course, one of the most relevant.
These two teams were desperate for a franchise quarterback—a kid with a golden arm who would be groomed to become the face of the franchise and lead the team to greatness in the next 10-15 years.
Straight out of college, there were two greatly hyped signal callers.
Philip Rivers from North Carolina State, and Eli Manning from Ole Miss.
By now, you all know which two teams I’m talking about here, as you all know about the Manning-Rivers trade.
The controversy involving this trade was mostly because Manning, the son of Southern legend Archie Manning, and little brother of America’s commercial sweetheart Peyton Manning, had previously stated that if picked by the Chargers, he would refuse to play.
Expectations were high around both Eli and Rivers, although Eli went through more pressure, being Peyton’s brother and all, and because of the trade, comparisons between the two QBs was inevitable.
Everyone was anxious to watch them play and eager to determine who was better and, ultimately, which team had benefited more from the trade.
Five years have passed, but the comparisons still happen.
Rivers spent two seasons holding clipboards, watching Drew Brees play, and learning the system before taking the field as the starter in his third season in the NFL.
Taking over a high-powered offense featured by LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, Rivers responded well.
Despite being often criticized by being too vocal while talking about opponents, having discussions with Jay Cutler, and yelling at fans, teammates, and even coaches, after three full seasons as the starter, Rivers took the offense over and proved to all critics that the Chargers offense is not only Tomlinson-based.
Throwing 34 TDs and finishing the season with an impressive 105.5 QB rating last season also helped his stock a little.
Rivers has had fair success in the postseason as well, winning a few playoff games, but is yet to reach the big game.
Eli Manning’s road was a bit tougher.
Facing the pressure of out-playing Rivers and living up to the family name (not to mention facing the hard New York media), Eli had a rough season in 2004.
Being bashed for his easy demeanor and the fact that he always says, “I just need to make better decisions” in interviews, Eli had to face a couple of teammates calling him out as well.
In the next two seasons, Eli would then post average numbers but still lead the Giants to the playoffs, only to be one and done.
In 2007, New York fans were starting to urge for Eli to show something, but it was not until the season was over that the younger Manning showed what he was made of.
Following another mediocre season stat-wise, the Giants were considered underdogs for the playoffs. However, counting with a bruising defense too, Eli stepped up and led the Giants with victories over the Buccaneers, the Cowboys, Packers, and ultimately the undefeated Patriots to win the Super Bowl.
Eli led fantastic drives through these games, including the Giants’ game-winning drive in the Super Bowl.
In 2008, as Rivers did, Eli had a career year. Keeping his postseason form, Eli led the Giants to the NFC playoffs.
The Giants and Chargers meet this year in November in Giants Stadium, so the comparisons will resurface as Eli and Rivers face each other for the first time in their careers.
Who is the best? Will winning this game prove who the better quarterback is? Will the result of this game affect the rest of the career of these two players? Does winning this game mean that one team got the best out of the trade?
I guess it’s up for you to reach your conclusions and answer, but regardless of the outcome, we football fans are sure in for a treat come November...
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