In 2004, former NFL general manager Ernie Accorsi executed one of the great draft-day trades in recent memory, sending Philip Rivers to San Diego for Eli Manning. Rivers, a five-time Pro Bowler, has led the league in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage at various points in his career. He’s been a successful NFL quarterback.
But he hasn’t been Manning, who has a pair of Super Bowl rings on his resume.
Accorsi, as it turns out, knew Manning would be good, but even he didn’t expect multiple Super Bowl championships.
“I guess you never know that,” Accorsi said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I felt pretty good about it. His junior year (at Ole Miss), there was word that he might come out, so I went down to see him against Auburn. That team had, I think, one guy who had a cup of coffee in the league, but no other NFL players. And he kept driving down the field and tying the game or putting them ahead on a very cold day against superior talent. Finally Auburn scored and he took them down the field again. I was pretty impressed and I wrote a scouting report.”
The following year, in 2003, Manning, who stayed in school, led the Rebels to a 31-28 win over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. Accorsi saw Manning in person again that season.
“I remember I came back and I told Jerry Reese, ‘I’m not changing a word of the scouting report,’” Accorsi said. “You never really know, but I’ve been lucky enough. I came into the league with Johnny Unitas, so I saw the best at close range, and I learned early that, listen, all the measurables are important, but there’s got to be something inside of them. They have (to have) that great knack of (lifting) a team (and leading in the clutch). I thought Eli had that.”
While Manning has been a staple of the G-Men for the past 12 years, the Jets have had a revolving door at quarterback. Their best option, as of now, is Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has played for four NFL franchises over the last four seasons.
Fitzpatrick, a free agent, wants more money than he’s worth – or that he’ll receive – but ultimately, Accorsi thinks he’ll re-sign with the Jets.
“I think they’ve handled it beautifully,” Accorsi said. “One of the key things they did do is they protected themselves with a young quarterback (Christian Hackenberg). Now, we don’t know. He’s not the first pick. I saw him play a lot more because I worked at Penn State. He kind of regressed a little bit after (Bill) O’Brien left, but he’s got talent. So they did pick a young quarterback for the future. I thought what Green Bay did when they picked Rodgers while they still had Favre was brilliant. When you have a chance to get a young quarterback, you better get him – because you don’t know when you’re going to have a chance and you don’t know if you’re going to have a high pick (when there’s a quality quarterback at the top of the draft). You can’t force the issue.
“So I think they did the right thing,” Accorsi said. “They’ve said all the right things. They’re going to wait it out. The ideal situation was to have a veteran and a young guy because I still believe (young guys) need time. They throw them to the wolves too quickly now. So I think they did the right thing. They have a good young quarterback who has potential, and I think they’ll get Fitzpatrick.”