An Appreciation for Ernie Accorsi, who left the Giants with Eli Manning
Back during the 2004 NFL Draft was probably the most intriguing draft for any New York Giants fan within recent times and perhaps even ever. The team was coming off a 4-12 campaign that saw former head coach Jim Fassel get canned for the letdown of a season that followed a surprising 10-6 playoff appearance. In came Tom Coughlin and his no-nonsense philosophy to run a tight ship. Also on the way out was veteran quarterback Kerry Collins who became an NFL-journeyman during and after battling alcoholism.
In the ’04 draft the Giants had the fourth selection and it was obvious that then-general manager Ernie Accorsi coveted Ole Miss QB Eli Manning – badly. To make things go more towards the Giants’ way of things, Manning had let his desire be known that he wished to not play for the San Diego Chargers — the team who owned the number one overall selection. The Chargers were mentioned as to actually preferring NC State quarterback Philip Rivers despite his awkward side-arm release – which was another nugget that the Giants were glad to hear about.
When the Chargers were on the clock, they selected Manning despite his wishes. The Giants at number four took Rivers with the intention of trading him (if the Giants had thought a potential trade for Manning was a no-go, Accorsi would have drafted Ben Roethlisberger).
“Both of those guys had that [certain skill sets] and [Roethlisberger] was at a different level of competition we thought playing at [Miami of Ohio] than Eli. But we thought he would definitely fit in for us. We didn’t have any issues with picking him if it came down to that,” said then-director of player personnel at the time and current general manager, Jerry Reese.
From the start of the Chargers being on the clock to about two hours later, the blockbuster deal that diehards now remember finally took place. Manning had been shipped to New York and Rivers was sent to San Diego along with multiple draft picks – picks that allowed the Chargers to eventually select then-future Pro Bowlers in Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding, and Roman Oben.
Accorsi laid his legacy on the line with Manning. The trade appeared to be very steep at first upon initial announcement, and over the course of Manning’s first three seasons that often was filled with inconsistency causing question as to whether if he was worth a number one overall selection. But Accorsi never wavered his opinion – sticking to his original scouting report on Manning.
“Plays smart and with complete confidence. Doesn’t scold his teammates, but lets them know when they line up wrong or run the wrong pattern … Threw three interceptions. Two were his fault. Trying to force something both times. He could have run on one of them, a fourth-down play. He has a lot to learn.”
“Think he’s the complete package. He’s not going to be a fast runner, but a little like Joe Montana, he has enough athletic ability to get out of trouble. Remember how Archie ran? In that department, Eli doesn’t have the best genes, although I never timed mom Olivia in the 40. But he has a feel for the pocket.”
“Has courage and poise. In my opinion, most of all, he has that quality you can’t define. Call it magic …Peyton had much better talent around him at Tennessee. But I honestly give this guy a chance to be better than his brother.”
After Super Bowl XLVI, that reporting came to fruition in everyone’s eyes. Manning has done the most important thing that defines a player’s legacy with a franchise — winning a Super Bowl (and not once but twice). The going was rough at first but the Giants front office showed their true grit and mental toughness to withstand outside speculation by sticking with Manning. Despite tossing 48 touchdown passes in his first two seasons as a starter, Manning had his share outings that had fans scratching their heads but what player does not do that?
The Giants faithful appreciate Manning to the fullest now as he will indeed go down as the franchise’s best quarterback ever. There is no need for him to be measured by his brother despite it always being talked about since they naturally share the same genes. Each player is great in their own way and it definitely should be appreciated that we are fortunate to see these two players play in the same era. During training camp prior to last season, Eli Manning was quoted,
“I’ve never tried to compete with Peyton. I never tried to say I need to be better than him… In college, he was going to be the first pick in the draft, so if I tried to go out there and be the same person and be better than him or the same person as him, I’m going to drive myself crazy. I’m going to go out and be the best quarterback I can be and get the most out of my potential. If that’s better than him, great. If it’s not, so be it.”
Right on. Manning has become the Giants franchise quarterback. I do think that he sometimes is underappreciated as a quarterback in the NFL but Accorsi will go down as the one who had the guts to give up a lot to get his man. Long-term — the draft day trade looks more and more positive for the Giants with each day.