Rolling Rivers

Unlike every other sports-related web site, I didn’t see fit to put out my own mock NFL draft. It just seemed a pointless exercise. Sort of like artificial sport. Journalistic onanism. I think more people were interested in guessing who teams would pick than in the results of the actual picks.
Thank god for the Philip Rivers & Eli Manning story. It turned what is otherwise a fairly boring event into high drama.
First of all, could Philip Rivers possibly have come out of this whole thing looking better? I mean, who wouldn’t root for this guy? I’m not a State fan, but I couldn’t help but become a fan of Rivers over his career. He always seemed to do and say all the right things on and off the field. The season he put together this past year was simply spectacular. While the team didn’t meet the unfairly lofty goals of their fans, no one could fault Rivers for any of that. So, it was a funny to me that Rivers was seen as a bit of an underdog going into the draft. He predictably played very well at the Senior Bowl, and somehow that surprised people. I guess it took a long time for the pros to see what people in this area have been seeing for years – this kid is special.
I can’t say for certain that Philip Rivers will be a great NFL player, but I certainly wouldn’t bet against him. He reminds a lot of people of Bernie Kosar, mostly because of his sidearm motion. He also reminds me quite a bit of Dan Marino – a big, stationary guy who always knew where the open receiver was and then could put the ball on the money. Rivers knows football. He will learn to read NFL defenses much faster than most rookie quarterbacks. Because he is so accurate, he’ll be able to find the open man and hit him, even if “open” in the NFL doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in the ACC.
And then there’s Eli Manning. It’s amazing what he and his dad did to damage a good name in just one week. What a punk. He said he’d never play for San Diego, but instead of being a man and saying it himself, he had his daddy do the dirty work. It’s not like refusing to go to the Clippers or Expos. It’s San Diego! One of the best places to live in the country. The Chargers have a star running back in LaDainian Tomlinson (yes, I had to look up that spelling), a good coach in Marty Schottenheimer and the franchise was in the Super Bowl just a few years ago.
Eli continued his whining ways on Saturday, when he frowned after being picked #1 overall and then refused to put on a Chargers hat. So, an employer says they want you and are willing to pay you millions of dollars and you refuse to put on their hat? What an ass. It’s not like Eli was such a superstar in college that he can pull that kind of crap and have people understand. He had a good career for a fairly mediocre team.
The ironic thing is that Eli’s antics in contrast to Rivers look exactly like Eli’s older brother Peyton compared to Ryan Leaf. Except that the younger Manning is playing the part of the petulant Leaf. Talk about your brand name assassination. Peyton should sue.
It’s just perfect that Eli ended up in New York. Talking about getting what you asked for. He better damn well be good right off the bat or they will eat him alive. Let me run down the things he has going against him:

  • He’s a QB, drafted #1 overall in New York City. Talk about your lofty expectations. Anything short of excellence from day one and he’ll be getting attacked by the fans and media like he never saw down at Ole Miss.
  • The Giants traded up to get him. It’s not like the Giants just had the pick and took the best player. They went after him.
  • His punk behavior of the last week. He’s already starting off with one big knock against him. Everyone’s going to be looking for him to fail now, with many hoping that he will, just to get his just deserts.
  • On draft day, the Chargers bluffed and the Giants blinked. The general perception is the Giants panicked and gave up too much in the deal, giving their #4 pick (Rivers) as well as three other draft picks, including next year’s #1. Giants fans are already unhappy at the deal.
  • The comparisons to Rivers. Manning has to outplay Rivers or he’ll never be seen as a success. Many highly rated QB’s don’t make it, but when they are so inexorably tied to another player, like Leaf to Peyton Manning, it makes the failure more acute.

So, we’ll see what happens. In a couple of years, once they’ve each had a chance to seize the starting role and take over their teams, we’ll know who really made the right moves on Saturday. My money’s on San Diego and Philip Rivers.

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