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Still time for Rivers to catch Eli Manning

4/24/2014

Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has none.

That's one of the few statistics Manning, the New York Giants' starting signal-caller for the past decade, holds over his competitor from the 2004 draft.

Now, that's a pretty significant statistic, as Rivers has not sniffed a Super Bowl appearance since the Chargers made the draft-day trade that sent Manning to New York and Rivers to America’s city with the best weather.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of that blockbuster trade. Spurned by Manning, the Chargers selected the Ole Miss QB anyway with the No. 1 overall pick, trading him to the Giants for the North Carolina State product.

The Chargers also received three draft picks in the deal, allowing the team to select eventual Pro Bowl edge-rusher Shawne Merriman and kicker Nate Kaeding.

San Diego also selected center Nick Hardwick and pass-rusher Shaun Phillips in the 2004 draft. That group served as a foundation for the team’s five playoff appearances since Rivers took over as quarterback.

Rivers leads Manning in Pro Bowls (Rivers has five, Manning has three), passer rating (96.0 to 81.2) and completion percentage (64.4 to 58.5), while Manning leads Rivers in total yards (35,345 to 32,369), touchdowns (229 to 221) and wins (85 to 79).

But a decade after the deal, things are certainly trending toward Rivers having a better ending to his career after Manning’s nightmarish 2013 campaign.

And as Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll likes to say, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Rivers put together one of his best seasons statistically in the NFL in 2013, while Manning had perhaps the worst of his 10-year career.

Rivers is beloved in San Diego. The city’s love of Rivers was put on display when Manning’s Giants visited Qualcomm Stadium last December. Chargers fans greeted Manning with boos in San Diego’s 37-14 win over the Giants.

Manning is 0-3 against the Chargers.

Hardwick believes the best has yet to come for his quarterback, who's been revitalized by the installation of an up-tempo, no-huddle offense that takes advantage of his quick decision-making.

“I can’t imagine not playing with Philip this year because I truly believe this is going to be his best year of his whole career, from here on out,” Hardwick said.