AFC-NFC games only come around once every four years with the rotational system that the NFL employs to schedule matchups. That makes this weekend’s game between the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants more than just two 5-7 teams clawing for their slim playoff lives. And the pervading storyline from this game inevitably centers around the two men quarterbacking the squads as they were dealt for one another in an infamous draft day trade a decade ago.
Eli Manning already expressed his thoughts on the deal that eventually led to him playing in New York, and needless to say fans of the Bolts (myself included) were not impressed. So many times people tend to forget about the player on the other end of that deal in Philip Rivers who was actually a member of the Giants for a New York minute.
Much like Eli’s lackluster play this season with a propensity to turn the football over, Rivers rode that roller coaster for the better part of the past two seasons before new head coach Mike McCoy arrived in San Diego. His play this season has taken a complete 180 from those ill-advised gambles, and it’s been getting noticed around the league. In fact the man who coaches Eli, Tom Coughlin, offered plenty of praise to Rivers via The Star-Ledger saying:
“He does a good job (spreading the ball around). The ball comes out quick. They’re diversified in how they operate. All you have to do is look at that third-down number. That’s hard to do in this league. Because of the nature of their offense, the complicated looks that they see on third down, you have to give them a lot of credit for that.”
There’s no doubt that quick release will come in handy against a Giants team known for its pass rush in recent years. Although they are likely to be without one of the fiercest quarterback hounds in Jason Pierre-Paul on Sunday, the G-Men still have a host of other guys from Justin Tuck to Mathias Kiwanuka and Cullen Jenkins capable of getting after the quarterback. It’s going to be up to Rivers to make quick reads and get the ball out on time to the correct receivers and prove Coughlin’s praise to be valid.
This will be the third time that these two forever linked signal callers have faced off in the league with the Chargers holding victories in the two previous contests. The fact that it’s been a decade already since that fateful day is hard to wrap your head around, and clearly the San Diego quarterback feels the same way. Rivers told CBS Los Angeles:
“It always brings up memories, certainly, of that 30 or 45 minutes when we were on each other’s teams. I never really thought I was going to New York. When you get drafted by a team and you still have never spoken to them, there usually is a chance it’s not real. It certainly was crazy and to think it has been almost 10 years. Time does fly.”
Despite having that half an hour to have called themselves members of the opposing squad on Sunday, don’t think for a second these two won’t be gunning for a victory to stay alive in the convoluted wild card races in both conferences. One team will emerge from Sunday’s meeting with some hope still intact while the other will move on to next week with very little to play for. Could you really ask for better stakes in a 2004 NFL Draft reunion?