"I had nothing against San Diego or the people of San Diego when I made this decision. ... My decision was not based on where I'd be living. It was about being there and playing football there for possibly six or seven years with a contract, and it just didn't seem like the right fit for me.”
After Manning was announced as the first pick, a chorus of boos descended from the New York crowd. It was unsure if the crowd was booing because they expected a trade by the Giants or just a displeasure with Manning.
It took 45 minutes before a trade was announced. Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith forced the Giants hand when he surprised everyone by taking Manning. Eventually, Rivers and Manning switched teams. The Chargers also received a third-round pick in that draft and first- and fifth-round choices in 2005.
Those draft picks were turned into kicker Nate Kaeding in 2004 and linebacker Shawne Merriman in 2005. They traded the fifth round pick to Tampa Bay for Offensive Tackle Roman Oben. Oben was a key part of the Chargers for four seasons.
Their first meeting after the blockbuster trade occurred in September 2005. Manning had a great day, finishing 25-for-41 for 352 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Chargers star from their other big draft day trade did in the Giants. LaDainian Tomlinson was drafted in 2000 after the Chargers traded the rights to the No. 1 pick that Atlanta used for Michael Vick. Tomlinson ran for 192 yards and three touchdowns and completed a touchdown pass as the Chargers routed New York 45-23.
At the time, Rivers was the backup to Drew Brees. He was still a year away from becoming the starter. Merriman was in his first season and wasn't much of an impact player yet. Kaeding scored nine points.
That draft has had a major impact on both franchises. Rivers led the NFL in passer rating and touchdowns last season and appeared in the Pro-Bowl following the 2006 season. Merriman had made the Pro-Bowl in all three of his full seasons in the NFL. Kaeding made the Pro-Bowl after the 2006 season.
Manning led the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLII and played in the Pro Bowl at the conclusion of the 2008 season.
With Tomlinson near the twilight of his career, Rivers has become the face of the Chargers. The passing of the torch occurred during the 2007 playoffs. Rivers led the Chargers into the AFC Championship at New England after an upset at Indianapolis.
Rivers tore his ACL at Indy and courageously played at New England. The Chargers nearly upset the undefeated Patriots before falling 21-12. They have won three playoff games during his tenure in San Diego.
Five years after the trade, it was fitting that Rivers and Manning's first game against each other would be in New Jersey. The draft day trade was conducted just across the river from Giants Stadium. Rivers completed 24-of-36 passes for 209 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Manning was 25-of-33 for 215 yards and touchdowns. Their showdown was fairly even.
The Giants inability to score a touchdown on a drive that started on the Chargers four with just over three minutes left gave San Diego one last hope.
The Chargers got the ball back with 2:07 left after a Lawrence Tynes field goal pushed the Giants lead 20-14.
Rivers didn't need the entire 2:07. The Chargers went 80 yards in 1:46 without the use of a timeout. A Rivers to Vincent Jackson 18-yard touchdown pass tied the game at 20. Kaeding's extra point gave the Chargers the lead.
On the ensuing Giants possession, Merriman sacked Manning on the final play, giving the Chargers the victory. The way the Chargers won could not have happened any more fittingly. The three principals from that trade for San Diego were the catalysts for the Chargers' much-needed win.
Rivers' and Manning's NFL career will be forever intertwined. The first showdown was a memorable one, and it was fitting that all of the four drafted players had such important roles in the outcome.