Draft day call to Manning and other sorted tales

This year's draft for the Chargers ended up being more like a four-day odyssey. It featured all the machinations and subplots of an ancient Greek tragedy and brought all of the Bolts' inadequacies to a national audience. But when the smoke finally cleared, how did The Organization end up looking? Actually, they fared pretty well in spite of themselves. <i>USA Today's</i> "Sports Weekly" featured an article on how the Chargers' "draft gamble" paid off.

Of course, the same article also awarded A.J. Smith with the best quote of the draft: "We knew exactly what we doing, but we don't want to reveal what we were thinking." You can't argue with that kind of genius.

I don't blame Eli Manning for not wanting to play for the Chargers. No one has been more critical of the Chargers than I have. Schottenheimer is past his mediocre prime and the Spanos' haven't shown a commitment to winning for the short or long term. They've given the public the impression that the team's profitability is their main concern. But when Eli Manning gave the Chargers an ultimatum NOT to draft him, he was completely out of line.

It's like the one of the many lessons learned from "Animal House." They can't do that to our pledges, only we can do that to our pledges.

When I complain about the Chargers' numerous gaffes since 1995, it's out of frustration from being a die-hard fan. Eli Manning looked at the team and their unsettled stadium situation as "not being a good fit."

What's even sadder is that he had his dad deliver the message to the Bolts. The Manning's had to know that his refusal to play in San Diego would get out. I'm happy A.J. Smith leaked it. Sure, it made the rest of the football world realize what we already know—The Organization has its collective head up its ass. But it also showed everyone what a baby Eli is. As a life-long resident of the Metropolitan Area, I can tell you that his kind of immaturity doesn't play too well. Can you imagine how people would have reacted if this wasn't a "good ‘ol boy" who also happened to be a member of "southern royalty?"

USA Today was also one of the few media outlets to point out that the Chargers never really wanted Eli Manning to begin with. I have no doubt that they DID, as was reported, decide to take him about ten days before the draft. But I think that was more because it seemed like the safest choice at quarterback. So much is made of Manning's "pedigree," like he's a thoroughbred or something. I think that even though many "experts", myself included, thought that Ryan Leaf would turn out to be a good pro, many people ignore or forget the fact that THE CHARGERS NEVER HAD THE CHANCE to pick Peyton Manning. They swapped picks with Arizona and gave them Patrick Sapp and Eric Metcalf. The Cardinals selected defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who was also a bust. So it's not as if the Bolts passed over Peyton in 1998.

In the same breath that most draft junkies suggest that they would have taken Eli Manning number one, they admit that they don't think he'll turn out to be the best quarterback in this year's draft. In fact, the ESPN.com poll conducted the week after the draft revealed that the majority of people don't think Manning will be the best rookie quarterback this year. The guy they think WILL turn out to be the best is the guy we ended up with.

I may hate Schottenheimer, but it's obvious that he and Rivers clicked at the Senior Bowl. I've only read great things about Rivers, especially the interview SDBoltReport.com ran a week prior to the draft and the profile Sports Illustrated ran on him the week before the draft. I do believe that this was the quarterback that The Organization wanted all along. It was an added bonus that they knew they could get a couple of extra picks by trading the top spot.

Of course that didn't stop me from taking an instant dislike of Eli Manning. So when I was given the telephone number for his hotel room eleven hours before the draft, I just couldn't resist. To me, Eli Manning has become "Frank Cushman" from the film "Jerry Maguire." You remember, "Cush" was the character Jerry O' Connell played. His father, Beau Bridges, turn to arch nemesis Bob Sugar the night before the draft. Before I actually spoke to Eli Manning, I had left him some rambling message about having "Cush-lash." I really don't care if he got the reference.

When I DID speak to him (definitely not with him), I introduced myself as a member of the "Charger Fan Alliance" and told him that he was definitely not doing the right thing by handling the draft in such an immature fashion. All he could really muster up was a "Uh-huh" and "You have a good night now."

Did I expect anything different? No, but I was happy to express my opinion to that dour tool. It made me almost as happy to leave my Charger helmet beads on Archie Manning's doorstep when I was in New Orleans for JazzFest last weekend, but that's a whole other story.

As bad as Philip Rivers looked in the early stages of mini-camp, Manning has looked worse.

I was also happy that the Chargers heeded the advice of Dr. Jonathan Niednagel, "The Brain Doctor." The Brain Doctor was the guy who famously told Bobby Beathard that Ryan Leaf had the worst possible demeanor to be a pro quarterback and would inevitably fold under pressure. I first read about this guy in the New York Times a few Sundays back. Unfortunately, I just found that the Brain Doctor makes his analysis based on facial expressions, body movement and speech. Regardless, he claims Eli Manning will never become great.

In closing, I'd also like to mention Ken Bikoff, of Pro Football Weekly's web site. He was one of the few guys who came out and called Manning a whiner and credited the Chargers for sticking to their guns. It's always nice to see someone outside our little circle give the Bolts some positive press.

RLW

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