This weekend the Giants and Chargers will play in San Diego with both teams sitting at 5-7, their playoff hopes all but dashed. The game itself will most likely mean very little, regardless of the outcome, in the grand scheme of things. It does provide us with one interesting talking point, however.
Two quarterbacks selected in the top 10 of any draft will always be compared to each other for the remainder of their careers, it is inevitable; but when those same two players were traded for each other, well, that amplifies the comparisons even further. That is exactly the link that Giants quarterback Eli Manning and San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers share.
On draft day in 2004 the Chargers selected Manning first overall, only to trade him to the Giants for Rivers (whom the Giants took with the 4th pick), a 2004 3rd rounder (Nate Kaeding), a 2005 1st round pick (Shawn Merriman) and a 2005 5th rounder (later traded by the Chargers). Amazingly enough Manning, Rivers, Merriman and Kaeding all made the Pro Bowl at some point in their career, which is something I, personally, find incredible.
Despite Merriman and Kaeding both being Pro Bowlers at some point, they truly are irrelevant in this conversation because they have not had the lasting impact that Rivers and Manning have had on their teams, and they weren’t playing the premium position in the game (no offense to the kicker and the steroid-using linebacker, but you guys were never going to determine the winner of this deal, anyway). The team that got the better of this deal is the one who got the QB you would most want to have. So who would you choose: Eli or Rivers?
Rivers has proven to be a very good, durable QB and by almost any quantifiable statistic he is the superior quarterback to Manning. Rivers has a career passer rating 13.6 points higher than Eli (95.6 to 82.0), throws more TD’s per game (1.71 to 1.54), and has a lower percentage of his passes intercepted (2.6 to 3.3). Rivers has been selected to 4 Pro Bowls (in the AFC having to compete with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for that distinction) to Eli’s 3. He even has a higher winning percentage, 60.4%, than Eli does, 56.4%.
This seems like a landslide victory for Philip Rivers except for one thing: Eli Manning is clutch. Quantifiable statistics are nice, but they are not what make you a winner. Being at your best when you absolutely have to be makes you a winner. Up until this season Eli Manning has had an uncanny ability to perform at his highest level when the situation has required it. That is why he is a two-time Super Bowl Champion, and that is why he is a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
No one in San Diego is going to be telling their grandchildren about how Philip Rivers had a career passer rating of 95, I will be telling mine about the time Eli Manning escaped 3 Patriots then fired the ball down field to David Tyree who caught the pass with his helmet in route to a Giants Super Bowl victory.
Rivers’ numbers are superb, but he, and his team, have a habit of falling short when it matters most. Eli’s two Super Bowl MVP’s make this an easy choice. Despite his inconsistencies I’d rather have him on my team, hands down.
(all stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com)