In Eli Manning’s 14 seasons with the New York Giants, he’s defeated every NFL team at least once, except the Colts and the Chargers.
With a matchup between the Giants and Colts slated for the 2018 season and the next meeting with Los Angeles not on the schedule until 2021, there’s a good chance the Chargers could end up being the only team undefeated against Manning.
The Giants fell, 27-22, to the Chargers on Sunday. It was the fourth time Manning has faced the Chargers. In losses in 2005, 2009 and 2013, he combined for five touchdowns and two interceptions, but the Giants’ defense has struggled to slow the Chargers.
On Sunday, Elli finished with 225 passing yards, two touchdowns, one pick, and one fumble — and he lost four receivers to injury, including Odell Beckham Jr.
It’s an odd statistic that Manning is 0-4 against the team. After all, Manning, the first pick in the 2004 NFL draft, began his time in the NFL by demanding a trade from the Chargers.
The trade that sent Eli to New York
The San Diego Chargers selected Manning with the No. 1 pick, but he was a member of the team for only 45 minutes before he was traded to the Giants for No. 4 overall selection Rivers. The Chargers also received a third-round selection in the deal, as well as first- and fifth-round picks in 2005.
But the reason for the blockbuster deal — Manning’s desire to avoid playing in San Diego — came with little explanation. Chargers general manager A.J. Smith only said that it was the wishes of Eli’s father and former Saints quarterback Archie Manning that forced the deal.
"[Eli Manning’s agent Tom Condon] told me that Archie wishes that we do not select Eli and that they think he would be a good fit in New York (with the Giants)," Smith said in 2004, via the San Diego Union Tribune. "We understand his position and certainly understand his interest in New York, but we will do what we think is the best for the franchise."
More than a decade later, Manning’s aversion to San Diego still hasn’t been explained much. Last year, Archie Manning said he didn’t have anything to do with the decision and Eli has reportedly told Giants teammates that Condon was the driving force.
With two Super Bowl victories under his belt, Manning hasn’t had much reason to regret the decision.
“I want to thank [former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi],” Manning said at an awards dinner in April, via Newsday. “If it wasn’t for him, I’d be playing in a soccer stadium in Los Angeles.”
Rivers sat for two seasons behind Drew Brees, but in his 12 seasons as the Chargers starter, he has made six Pro Bowls and became the franchise’s all-time leader in every major passing category. The trade in 2004 also sent Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding to the Chargers and left the team with a cheaper quarterback.
So 14 seasons later, the trade isn’t remembered with many hard feelings.
Both teams are in the running for the No. 1 pick in 2018
In the 13 drafts since the Giants picked Rivers and traded for Manning, the team hasn’t had a pick in the top eight. The Chargers avoided the top 10 for more than a decade before picking Joey Bosa at No. 3 in 2016 and Mike Williams at No. 7 in 2017.
But both were off to 0-4 starts in 2017 and now the Giants are 0-5 after Sunday. Right now, they stay near the top of the race for the first pick in the 2018 NFL draft. And the future for the remainder of the season is bleak even for the Chargers.
The Giants started 0-6 in 2013 before rallying to a 7-9 record. The Chargers haven’t had an 0-4 start since 2003, when another loss extended the record to 0-5. They finished with a 4-12 record.
For Rivers and Manning, the end looks near. There are a few older quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Drew Brees — but the time is ripe for both the Giants and Chargers to look for a replacement in 2018.
Ultimately, Sunday has little impact on the legacy of either player, but for Manning, a loss could leave a weird footnote on the trade that began his NFL career.