Giant risk nets Manning

N.Y. deals Rivers, 3 picks for franchise QB after top pick spurns Chargers

NFL Draft

April 25, 2004|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Twenty-one years after he lost John Elway, Ernie Accorsi found Eli Manning.

The New York Giants can only hope the two quarterbacks deserve to be linked in the same sentence one day.

Accorsi, the Giants' general manager, acquired Manning yesterday after a calculated gamble and some nifty maneuvering in the first round of the NFL draft.

Unable to agree on terms of a trade with San Diego before the draft, Accorsi had to watch the Chargers take the Mississippi quarterback with the first pick. Knowing the Chargers really wanted Philip Rivers, Accorsi then drafted the North Carolina State quarterback himself with the Giants' fourth pick overall.

What transpired next is unclear; Accorsi refused to say who called whom. But in the ensuing hour, the Giants and Chargers finally agreed to make the quarterback trade.

For the Giants, the price was high: They gave up a third-round pick this year and first- and fifth-round choices in 2005.

Reminded that he said he wouldn't "give up the store" to get Manning, Accorsi voiced supreme confidence in the young quarterback.

"I don't consider that the store by any means for this player," he said.

Accorsi resisted surrendering this year's second-round pick, which the Chargers wanted. That was the sticking point in pre-draft negotiations.

Accorsi would not say if he drafted Rivers with the intention of luring the Chargers into the trade. But by taking Rivers, he was able to apply a bait-and-switch principle. Both teams had what the other wanted.

Because Manning had threatened to sit out the season rather than sign with the Chargers, San Diego also was at risk with its pick.

Asked if he took Rivers to entice San Diego, Accorsi was vague.

"Well, I don't want to discuss ... First of all, we loved Philip Rivers. We always felt that. I could say a lot about him, but for the whole global reason, that's our [business], we'll keep that to ourselves."

It is believed the Giants had Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback from Miami of Ohio, rated above Rivers on their draft board.

It was a day filled with gambles and calculations. Manning, for instance, graciously went to the stage at Madison Square Garden in New York, where the draft unfolds, to hold up the Chargers' jersey even though he had no intention of ever wearing it.

"Well, I didn't want to do anything out of the ordinary when I went on stage," he said. "I didn't want to leave the commissioner [Paul Tagliabue] out there holding the jersey and not taking it. I just wanted to go through the normal process and not cause any more controversy or do anything different."

It was obviously an awkward moment for Manning, son of former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie and brother of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton. It wasn't until later, between interviews, that he found out about the trade.

Manning insisted he was prepared to sit out the season and wait for next year's draft if the Chargers had kept him.

"Obviously, it would have been hard," he said. "We were hoping something would happen. I am glad I did not have to go through that situation and did not have to make that decision."

Manning isn't home free by any means, though. It seems obvious the Giants expect him to play as a rookie, but they still have veteran Kerry Collins, in the final year of his contract.

Accorsi wouldn't rule out the possibility that both quarterbacks would be on the Giants' roster this year.

New Giants coach Tom Coughlin sounded like he expected Manning to play early.

"I think he'll be ready very shortly," Coughlin said. "There's a learning curve, there's a process that everyone has to go through; you're going to pay the price."

Manning isn't awed by the prospect, either. Could he start right away?

"I think so. I am going to prepare myself to play right away and to work hard. I'm going to get the playbook as soon as possible and learn the offense and try to get my timing with all the receivers ... and earn some respect from the other players on the team," he said.

This was the franchise quarterback Accorsi wanted, just as he had wanted Elway in 1983 when he was a young general manager with the Baltimore Colts. Owner Bob Irsay traded Elway without Accorsi's knowledge, though, and Accorsi soon left the team.

Now Accorsi has his man, and history awaits.

"I don't want to compare him to other quarterbacks," Accorsi said. "What I saw in Manning was a classic prospect. [He has] size, arm, tremendous athletic ability, poise, class and probably more important than the obvious physical attributes that you have is the fact that he lifted his team. I always looked for that in a quarterback, where he made the athletes around him better."

Top 10 first-round picks

1. Chargers Eli Manning QB, Mississippi (traded to Giants)

2. Raiders Robert Gallery OT, Iowa

3. Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald WR, Pittsburgh

4. Giants Philip Rivers QB, N.C. State (traded to Chargers)

5. Redskins Sean Taylor S, Miami

6. Browns Kellen Winslow II TE, Miami

7. Lions Roy Williams WR, Texas

8. Falcons DeAngelo Hall DB, Virginia Tech

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