Now, to be fair, this really has nothing to do with the Bills. To cover my bases, I’ll say this has something to do with other QBs from the 2004 draft class not named J.P. Losman and it influenced our pick.
I feel the 2004 draft class will prove to be one of the monumental classes in NFL history given the successes so far. The butterfly effect from what almost happened has completely shaken the NFL landscape as we see it today.
Flashback: Ole Miss QB Eli Manning publicly states he has no intention of ever playing for the San Diego Chargers. He decides he will pursue other business opportunities not related to football if the Chargers select him 1st overall.
GM A.J. Smith is actually a very big supporter of Phillip Rivers, but Manning is widely hailed as the number one prospect. Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, who is infatuated with the Rebel, is picking 4th overall and is very interested in making a move up for him. The discussions stall, and Smith takes a huge gamble. He takes Manning #1 anyways.
Now Ernie Accorsi is on the clock at #4. Apparently, he actually had two trade options with this pick. He could either pick Rivers, then swap him with the Chargers. In doing so, he would have to give up his 3rd round pick in ’04 and his 1st and 5th in ’05. A.J. actually wanted the Giants’ 1st in 2005 and Osi Umenyiora. Smith relented and they worked out the package for picks. Cleveland Head Coach/GM Butch Davis proposed a trade to swap his 7th overall choice with the Giants for his 2nd rounder (37th overall).
Accorsi decided he liked Manning too much too pass him up and does the deal with Smith. He feared that Cleveland would move up and do the same deal with the Chargers. You all know the rest: Manning has inconsistent career, but wins SB in ’07 that changes everything. Rivers is yet to win a title, but has become one of the league’s best passers. It would appear Davis had his sights on Rivers as opposed to Ben Roethlisberger, because he traded his 2nd rounder in ’05 to move up to 6th overall and draft Miami (Fl.) TE Kellen Winslow II instead of the Miami (Oh.) passer. Big Ben went 11th to the Steelers, has two rings, and could be on his way to a 3rd.
Let’s think for a second what might have happened if Accorsi decided that Smith was asking for too much and went with Davis’ trade. The Chargers would have been stuck with Eli, who probably wouldn’t spurn them altogether, but would’ve been a petulant holdout. Rivers had the talent level to make the Chargers feel comfortable enough to not risk a big contract on then QB Drew Brees’ shoulder in the 2006 off-season. With Manning’s up-and-down play, maybe Brees would still be in SD and the Saints would still be the ‘Aints. They also could have potentially done the deal with the Browns, though that would mean Cleveland would have given up their 2nd and 3rd round picks in ’04 and their 1st and 5th round picks in ’05, assuming Smith would give Cleveland the same deal. That’s pretty steep to get Manning. My guess is they would have stayed at 4th and take Rivers.
The Browns would have taken a Pro Bowl QB, which could have potentially saved Butch Davis’ job (fired in the midst of a pathetic season). QB Jeff Garcia just couldn’t get it done for the Browns that season and they went 4-12. Now, Rivers probably would have played like an average rookie QB, but promise can save jobs in the NFL. 4-12 building year feels better than 4-12 lost year. The Browns could be ruling the AFC North instead of the now Roethlisberger-less Steelers. If the Browns instead landed Manning, they would still be in a much better situation today.
The Giants still needed a QB and would have presumably taken Ben Roethlisberger at #7. You could look at it a few different ways. Ben went nuts and partied hard in Pittsburgh. Can you imagine him in the Big Apple? It could be disastrous. Big Ben also could have been a stud for the G-Men, leading their talent rich, but underachieving teams to much bigger things than Eli did his first few seasons.
Hindsight is 20-20, but I’m amazed how one decision can affect the NFL landscape for a decade.