Former Giants GM thought Eli had a chance to be better than Peyton

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Eli Manning sporting a frullet in 1997, with Ole Miss in 2003, and starting for the Giants in 2006. (USATSI)
Ernie Accorsi spent most of his adult life in the NFL. He was the general manager when the Colts drafted John Elway in 1983 (he resigned a short time later after finding out that owner Robert Irsay had agreed to trade Elway without Accorsi's knowledge), and he was also responsible for pulling off the deal that brought Eli Manning to the Giants hours after the Chargers had selected Manning with the first overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

At the time, trading for Manning was a huge risk. The Giants were coming off a four-win season. To acquire Manning, they gave up Philip Rivers (whom they had drafted fourth overall in 2004), an '04 third-rounder and a first-rounder in '05 (San Diego selected kicker Nate Kaeding and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, respectively).

Manning struggled as a rookie, going 1-6 as a starter, completing 48 percent of his passes and tossing six touchdowns against nine interceptions. But Accorsi saw enough in Manning -- who played on a mediocre Ole Miss team -- to know that it was a chance worth taking. We know this because Giants.com has posted Accorsi's scouting report on Manning, and it offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the player-personnel process.

Some highlights: "In shotgun on most plays and his only running option is a draw … his offensive line is poor. Red-shirt freshman left tackle. Eli doesn't trust his protection. Can't. No way he can take any form of a deep drop and look downfield. With no running game (10 yards rushing the first half) and no real top receivers, he's stuck with the three-step drops and waiting til the last second to see if a receiver can get free. No tight end either. No flaring back. So he's taking some big hits. Taking them well. …

"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."

In the scheme of things, the three interceptions didn't matter; Accorsi was still impressed: "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."

Accorsi took some heat when the Giants traded for Manning. Now, nine years later, he looks pretty smart. Eli's two Super Bowl victories (XLII, XLVI) are two more than Rivers and one more than his brother, Peyton (XLI). And at 32, Eli is now considered one of the league's best quarterbacks, in the same conversation with Tom Brady, Drew Brees and, yes, Peyton.

 
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