Archie Manning gives details on why Eli refused to play for the Chargers

It's been 12 years since the San Diego Chargers made Eli Manning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, and to this day, not much is known about why Manning refused to play in San Diego.

Just days before the draft, Manning's agent Tom Condon, told the Chargers that Eli would sit out the entire 2004 season if the team drafted him with the first overall pick.

At the time, former Chargers general manager A.J. Smith partly blamed Eli's dad, Archie Manning, for the mess.

"[Condon] told me that Archie wishes that we do not select Eli and that they think he would be a good fit in New York (with the Giants)," Smith said in 2004, via the San Diego Union Tribune. "We understand his position and certainly understand his interest in New York, but we will do what we think is the best for the franchise."

There were a lot of theories on why Eli didn't want to play for the Chargers. The Union-Tribune reported that the Manning camp didn't want Eli's career to end up like Archie's. The elder Manning spent 11 years in New Orleans and never had a winning record with the team.

Going into 2004, the Chargers were on an ugly run and had only put together a total of four winning seasons since 1983.

Although Archie has long been viewed as one of the main instigators in Eli's decision, he recently disputed that notion. In an interview with the Rich Eisen Show, Archie said he had nothing to do with Eli's threat to sit out the season if the Chargers drafted him.

"It was a decision that Eli and Tom Condon kind of made, but Eli ultimately pulled the trigger on that and that's what he, doing his due diligence, decided to do," Archie Manning said. "I can't say it was pleasant from our end. Most people thought I orchestrated it, but I didn't. I don't tell my kids what to do or make their decisions."

In Archie's version of the story, Eli came to him for advice, but never asked him directly what he should do.

"It's a tough deal. It's hard. That was the only thing I told Eli when he told me he was going to do that," Archie said. "Think about it hard. If that's your conviction and what you want to do, then that's fine, and that's what he did."

In the end, the Chargers would end up drafting Eli with the No. 1 overall pick and trading him to the Giants. However, before the trade went down, Eli had to pose for what will likely go down as the most awkward draft day photo in NFL history.

eli-chargers-nfl-draft-06-27-16.jpg
This might go down as the most awkward draft photo of all-time. Getty Images

Things got so awkward before the Giants trade went down that Eli actually said he would rather go to law school than play for the Chargers.

In the end, the trade did go down and everyone came out a winner, according to Archie. Eli went to New York and the Chargers came away with Philip Rivers plus several draft picks.

"I think everybody came out good on the deal," Archie said. "The Chargers sure got a mighty good quarterback that day. Eli's happy in New York."

The truth is that we may not ever know why Eli refused to play for the Chargers and that's mainly because it doesn't sound like he's ever going to tell us.

In 2013, before the Giants played in San Diego, Eli was asked why he didn't want to play for the Chargers.

His answer?

"I forgot."

It's been theorized that the Manning camp didn't like the way the Chargers handled quarterbacks -- Drew Brees had a rough first two seasons in San Diego, and that came after the Ryan Leaf debacle. There's also the possibility that Condon thought the Chargers wouldn't be a good fit. At the time, Condon represented the Chargers coach (Marty Schottenheimer), quarterback (Brees) and running back (LaDainian Tomlinson).

Ironically enough, the Chargers are one of only three teams that Eli Manning has never beaten in his career, along with the Colts and the Giants.

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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