Giants fans might not much care about the course of events that led Eli Manning to Big Blue in the 2004 Draft. So long as he finds a way to play like he did before Plaxico Burress punctured himself with a bullet, who could be bothered worrying about why the Manning family was so dead set on avoiding life in San Diego?
It was still interesting to read an account from Mark Faller in the Arizona Republic about the events, though. It seemed a bit strange at the time, because San Diego's a nice town with great weather and the Chargers wear pretty snappy uniforms. On top of that, LaDainian Tomlinson gave them a pretty nice base for a young quarterback to work with and you could do worse than Marty Schottenheimer in the coaching department.
The Giants had their own charms but the Mannings never made it clear why they were so opposed to the Chargers. According to Faller and a golfing partner "close to Leaf", it had very little to do with the Giants and everything to do with Ryan Leaf. When Peyton Manning was drafted one pick ahead of Leaf in 1998, he found the Colts did everything in their power to help him succeed. He got a different story from Leaf.
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.
The story has some holes, most notably the fact that no one who had anything to do with the Chargers' football operations when Leaf broke in was still in charge when Eli and company came along. Archie Manning would seem to be savvy enough about the game to understand that those people are essential to the experience of players, especially when the other choice was a Giants team that hadn't developed a good quarterback in 20 years. And, finally, Leaf's own life trajectory makes it hard to believe that any franchise would have gotten anything but disappointment from him no matter how hard they worked.
As Ryan Wilson of FanHouse points out, things worked out pretty well for everyone. The Giants got a ring, the Chargers got Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding and Leaf got indicted. So, it didn't quite work out for all involved, but, as Paul Harvey might say, now you (maybe) know the rest of the story.