Charger Fans: Get Over the Eli Trade
San Diego, it was never personal, strictly business.
Maybe, if Eli Manning had uttered those eight words, he wouldn’t have become the city’s most-hated rival on the football field.
It has been 10 years since the San Diego Chargers and the New York Giants consummated that unforgettable trade. The local fan base still isn’t ready to bury the hatchet with Manning, as he was technically a Charger for four agonizing picks in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, and for some that seemed to be an eternity.
I don’t care where you go to watch football on Sunday afternoons in San Diego -- the room is divided equally into Charger fans, Dallas Cowboy or Oakland Raider fans and Eli haters. Usually, they’re the loudest because the Eli haters can always find something wrong with him. His weekly performance is dissected way too much by the TV talking heads and the fans.
I don’t understand the hatred because none of them would ever trade Philip Rivers for Manning at any point in their careers. It’s time for the city of San Diego to let this grudge go or at least have a more realistic opinion of Manning’s football skills. Stop acting like jilted lovers who cannot move on with their lives because they're always hoping for a reconciliation.
Let’s go back in time. The Chargers endured a dreadful 4-12 campaign that secured them the top pick in the 2014 draft. Then, reports quickly surfaced that Manning made it perfectly clear in a meeting with the Chargers that he didn’t want to be selected by San Diego with the first pick. This development put the Chargers firmly behind the eight ball, as they didn’t want to start the 2004 season with a disgruntled player who simply didn’t want to be in San Diego.
On the opening day of the draft, then Chargers general manager A.J. Smith still selected Manning with the No. 1 overall pick, then immediately traded him to New York for Rivers, the No. 4 pick, Nate Kaeding and the Giants’ 2005 first-round pick, which was used to select Shawne Merriman the following April. Not bad, as all of them are still making or made an impact on the field during their stay in San Diego.
The image that’s still firmly implanted in the head of nearly every Charger fan was Manning’s smirk after calling Smith’s bluff and winning the staredown by forcing a move to New York. The hatred more than likely was escalated when the two franchises met at Qualcomm Stadium a mere 17 months after the celebrated trade.
Emotions were running high, as Charger fans were fired up to express their hatred of the opposing quarterback. Every time Manning stepped onto the field, the Q was deafened with “Eli Sucks” chants, and his likeness was hung in effigy over the railing of the upper deck. Clearly, he was Public Enemy No. 1 in San Diego.
Looking back, Manning might have made the right decision in forcing the Chargers’ hands because it was becoming increasingly apparent that they were a disjointed franchise. The general manager rarely talked to the head coach, as they butted heads over the makeup of the roster. The real story that is rarely discussed is how poorly the Chargers treated Drew Brees, as they let a top-five quarterback walk to the New Orleans Saints without getting any compensation.
With football still being a team game, we put too much emphasis on the quarterback position. In the ballyhooed Chargers-Giants trade, each franchise acquired the right player whose personality fits perfectly on each respective roster. Both Manning and Rivers have evolved into quality quarterbacks, but neither is the reason why the Chargers haven’t won a Super Bowl yet.
Patience San Diego, your time may be coming.