Saturday, April 24, 2004

San Diego outfoxes the fox
Eli Manning, with assistance from his father, declared his unwillingness to play in San Diego primarily because the organization was not making strides towards returning to the playoffs anytime in the foreseeable future. Despite the warnings that Manning would be willing to sit out the season, the Chargers drafted him with the first pick anyway. This immediately raised questions about San Diego's motivation -- especially given that the Giants were more than willing to make a deal over the last few days. Well, it all became clear when New York drafted quarterback Philip Rivers with the fourth pick and then promptly consummated a trade with San Diego to swap quarterback picks.

The Mannings had every right to question the Chargers competence in putting together a winner, but this trade should erase many doubts, at least in the minds of San Diego fans. In addition to getting the quarterback they wanted all along, Philip Rivers, they also acquired the Giants 3rd round pick in 2004 as well as next year's 1st round and 5th round picks.

Many people in the know in the NFL describe New England Patriot coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Scott Pioli as very progressive and forward-thinking in their approach to how the draft works. They have been known to trade down one year only to stock up on picks the following year (which is exactly what they did for 2004). While no one would mistake the Chargers for the Patriots, trading Manning to the Giants was a very shrewd move for several reasons. As I mentioned above, they get the quarterback they wanted all along without having to actually take him first. They also get three additional draft picks to restock a team that has struggled for the better part of a decade. But perhaps the most important part of this trade is the 2005 first round pick they get from the Giants. This pick allows the Chargers to pursue wide receiver Mike Williams in the supplemental draft if he is available. This will give Rivers a much needed target on the outside and perhaps more importantly for a team that is rebuilding, they will still have a first round pick in the 2005 draft.

For all the confusion and posturing going on the last few days with the Chargers, this was easily the most astute move of the draft so far -- especially when you consider that Manning did not want to come here because of a history of bad front office decisions.