Philip Rivers

Another quarterback from the famed Class of 2004 calls it a career.

On Wednesday morning, Philip Rivers announced he’s retiring from the NFL. The long-time Chargers quarterback spent the final season of his career in Indianapolis, leading the Colts to the playoffs this season.

But his career got off to an interesting start to say the least. Let’s not forget that it was Rivers who the New York Giants drafted in 2004.

The Trade

The 2004 NFL Draft began on April 24 – and with a great deal of controversy. The San Diego Chargers owned the first overall pick and the clear choice at the top of that draft was a quarterback from Mississippi named Manning: Eli Manning.

But Manning wanted nothing to do with the Chargers. In a John Elway-like power play, Manning made it clear to the Chargers that he had no intention to ever play for them. He did so well in advance of the draft, giving San Diego the opportunity to trade out of the pick.

Yet, when the card was submitted, the Chargers selected Manning anyway.

The look on Manning’s face says it all. He and his family were not happy.

So how did the Chargers deal with Manning’s wishes? They found a willing suitor in the Giants, who owned the fourth overall selection.

The Giants selected North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers.

Then the trade went down.

  • The New York Giants received:
    Eli Manning, QB
  • The San Diego Chargers received:
    Philip Rivers, QB
    2004 3rd round pick (Nate Kaeding, PK)
    2005 1st round pick (Shawne Merriman, OLB)
    2005 5th round pick (later traded to Tampa Bay)

The Giants paid a heavy price to effectively move up from four to one; the Chargers were able to solve a problem and received very good value to move a player who wanted nothing to do with them.

The Aftermath

We don’t need to tell Giants fans what Manning meant to the history of the team. Two Super Bowl championships as the face of the franchise is enough to make the deal well worth it from New York’s perspective.

Manning joined Joe Montana, Bart Starr, Tom Brady and Terry Bradshaw as the only five players in NFL history with at least two Super Bowl MVPs as well.

San Diego – now Los Angeles – didn’t win a Super Bowl with Rivers, but he is in the conversation for the best quarterback in that franchise’s history. It worked out well for the Giants as well.

Rivers, 39, walks away with one of the more robust resumes in NFL history. He appeared in eight Pro Bowls, ranks fifth in NFL history with 63,440 passing yards (behind only Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre) and ranks fifth in league history with 421 touchdown passes (behind the same four quarterbacks).

Rivers, a devout Catholic, reportedly told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen that he wanted to announce his retirement specifically on Jan. 20 because it is the Roman Catholic Church’s feast day for St. Sebastian. St. Sebastian is referred to as the patron saint for athletes.

Eli retired almost exactly one year ago: Jan. 22, 2020.

What began as an incredibly awkward situation for the Chargers now ends with two quarterbacks headed to Canton.

Tab has written about MLB, the NHL and the NFL for more than a decade for publications including The Fourth Period, Bleacher Report and La Vida Baseball. He is the author of two books about the Chicago Blackhawks and has been credentialed for the MLB All-Star Game and postseason and multiple Stanley Cup Finals. He is the co-host of the Line Drive Radio podcast.