The Chargers 2011 off-season starts off with the NFL draft this coming April. However, the 2011 season is not yet over. Like most Charger fans, there are teams that you innately refuse to support because of the history and relationship to the bolts. Recently, in addition to all of the AFC West teams (especially the Raiders) teams like the Jets and Steelers have been hated foes in San Diego. Unfortunately two of the teams that tend to irk Charger fans most will meet in the Super Bowl this Sunday. The New York Giants and the New England Patriots. Bitterly and enviously we root for both of these teams failure, some more cynical fans might even “O.K” this scene from the new Dark Night Trailer to play out Sunday in Indy. (although there is no doubt in my mind Tom Brady figures out a way to survive)
Watching both of the super bowl participant’s recent success gives the Chargers and their fans a healthy reminder of the state of the franchise and asks the question…what could have been?
It’s easy to forget that the Chargers had the opportunity to draft Giant’s quarterback Eli Manning with the first overall pick in 2004. Not as forgettable, is the crushing home loss to the aforementioned Patriots who decapitated the Charger’s best regular season in franchise history (2006). Kaeding played the scapegoat role, missing field goals in a 23 to 20 divisional round loss to New England. Just get down Marlon McCree!!!!!!!!!!
As the cookie crumbled in 04’, the Manning family, particularly Eli and Archie vetoed the San Diego franchise and rode off to the skyscrapers of New York. It’s important to reflect on the magnitude of this trade and its effects both initially and in the long term. The always stubborn AJ Smith selected Eli Manning against his will; Yet to the relief of Charger fans was able to finagle a trade of the first overall selection. Philip Rivers, the fourth overall selection combined with a variety of players including soon to be Pro-Bowlers such as Shawne Merriman of Maryland and Nate Kaeding of Iowa. The Charger's first choice was always Rivers, who impressed the Charger’s staff and then head coach Marty Schottenheimer during the senior bowl. The Chargers were widely considered the upfront winners of the deal. Ernie Accorsi was labeled a front office villain for an extended period following the 2004 draft. As Rivers and Merriman began to shine, and even win games against the Giants, fans started to let their distaste be heard.
The grumblings of New York Giant fans everywhere were abruptly silenced by Accorsi’s draft pick after he lead the Giants over the undefeated patriots for his first Super Bowl championship in 2007. Owning a Super Bowl is the ultimate measuring tool. Manning now had the Super Bowl Rivers did not, and adding insult to injury, did it by beating quite possibly the best team ever.
Fast forward to 2011. Kaeding missed the entire campaign after just the opening kickoff where he suffered a torn ACL. Merriman who is now a Buffalo Bill suffered the same fate and ended up on the injured reserve list. Leaving Rivers as the sole survivor in 2011, from the Manning trade. I was fortunate enough to attend the 2004 draft in person and remember the moment that Eli Manning became a Giant and River’s a Charger. The Chargers seemingly got a lot of bang for their buck and that’s what was needed on an organizational level. Many Giants fans at the time thought that they gave up too much for a player who might end up suffering from little brother syndrome. As the next eight seasons unfolded, both Rivers and Manning have propelled themselves into the discussion of top current quarterbacks. However having already won a Super Bowl, in the eyes of many fans Manning still holds the upper hand. As a Charger fan it’s hard to argue with the success of Phillip Rivers. It’s more difficult to say that Eli Manning would have won a Super Bowl in San Diego. Remember they are different players, with different skill sets and most importantly have different players surrounding them. It is possible for a win-win trade in the NFL. Both quarterbacks have raised the level of play and expectation year in and year out for what were once a dismal organizations. Now the question still remains: Did the Giants win the trade?
They’ve won a Super Bowl and now have a chance to win another under Manning. I think the general consensus might say yes. However it is fair to the point. In a league of such parity, Rivers has provided not only elite numbers individually, but more importantly has given the Chargers a fighting chance as a consistent playoff contender. As the next couple of seasons unfold, it will be interesting to see how the careers of Rivers, Manning, along with Ben Roethlisberger will be compared. Rivers is the only of the three without a super bowl, he’ll look to change that in 2012, while continuing his individual statistical dominance.
Rivers or Manning? Choose one Charger Fans.