Remember when Eli Manning had that dopier-than-usual look on his face after the San Diego Chargers, against his wishes, took him with the first overall pick of the 2004 Draft? Good times.
Despite the onstage awkwardness at Radio City Music Hall, Manning's Chargers' career lasted about as long as the previous quarterback the organization drafted in the first round.
Six years before, San Diego selected Ryan Leaf second overall (the Colts took Peyton Manning No. 1, as Pete kindly reminded me) and, well, let's just say that was just about the worst decision anybody anywhere has ever made.* And it was Leaf's experiences in San Diego that led to the Manning family politely requesting that the Chargers leave Eli the hell alone. At least that's the word on the street.
The Arizona Republic's Mark Fuller hears things (from a golfing partner close to the Leaf family):
... After they were drafted, [Peyton] Manning told Leaf about how well the Colts organization treated him. They basically bent over backward to make his transition to the NFL as smooth as possible, taking care of all the non-football stuff so Peyton could concentrate on immersing himself into the Colts offense.That would certainly explain Archie's sudden "Um, yeah, Elisha ain't going to San Diego so don't even waste your time" change in demeanor. Perhaps more amazing: that it took five years for this story to come out, assuming it's even true.
Manning was stunned to hear that Leaf's experience was completely different. Our golfing partner said that Leaf was basically left to figure it out for himself. If that's true, you combine it with the legendary stories about what an immature jerk Leaf is and begin understand why he crashed so quickly. Again, this is coming from a family friend. Who knows what the Chargers did or did not do for their rookie QB, or whether their management team was equipped to deal with such a high-maintenance player.
Regardless of who was at fault for the failed Leaf-Chargers marriage, the allegedly shabby treatment of Leaf stuck with the Manning clan. And, our new golf buddy explained, that's why Archie Manning, the patriarch, threw such a fit on draft day when Eli was picked by San Diego.
Whatever, the Chargers shipped Eli to the Giants about an hour after they drafted him and it worked out pretty well for everybody. (Well, everybody but Leaf, who is still trying to piece his live back together.) New York, behind Manning, won the Super Bowl last year, and San Diego got Philip Rivers, and draft picks that would turn into Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding.