- - Thursday, December 7, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had a few things to say about the benching of his brother in NFL history, Eli Manning, by the New York Giants.

“I honestly thought it was pathetic,” Rivers told reporters. “He’s been out there 210 straight games — with no telling how many bumps and bruises and injuries — for his team. He won two Super Bowl MVPs. And with the respect he’s had in the locker room over the years, and really the respect he’s gained throughout the league, you feel like the guy has earned the opportunity — if they are, in fact, deciding to go another direction — he’s earned the opportunity to finish it off these last five weeks.”

If Rivers took the benching 3,000 miles away a little personally, maybe it was because it was a reminder for the Chargers quarterback that the end may be near for him as well, although, leading the hot Chargers into Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, no one is talking about benching Rivers.

“I just thought it was too bad the way it was handled,” Rivers said. “And with Eli, we’re not close buddies, but as a friend and fellow quarterback, it was tough to watch him yesterday. You can only imagine how he felt. And he handled it like a pro, like he’s handled everything.”

Maybe it was tough to watch for Rivers because he and Manning entered the league together in 2004 and now the end is in sight.

And what may make it particularly tough for Rivers is that, unlike Manning, he doesn’t have two Super Bowl MVPS. He doesn’t have two Super Bowl rings. And, as he turns 36 on Dec. 8 – the same age as Manning — the clock is ticking.

Rivers and Manning will forever be connected by the deal that the Manning family, led by former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, forced in 2004 that changed the future of both quarterbacks.

The San Diego Chargers had the No. 1 pick in the draft, and that selection was Eli Manning from the University of Mississippi. There was one problem – like John Elway more than 20 years earlier with the Baltimore Colts, Manning made it clear he had no intention of playing for the Chargers. His refusal forced a trade with the New York Giants, who traded the young quarterback they selected with the fourth pick in the first round, Philip Rivers, out of North Carolina State.

The trade changed the course of history for the Giants, as Manning led the franchise to two Super Bowl victories against the New England Patriots in 2008 and 2012. And while Rivers had gone to achieve personal success and bring a level of winning to the Chargers – winning the team’s first playoff game since 1994 with a win over the Tennessee Titans in 2007, one of five playoff seasons – Rivers doesn’t have the hardware to match Manning.

In every other way, though, he has been Manning’s equal.

Rivers ranks seventh all-time in career touchdown passes with 335. Manning ranks eighth with 334. Manning is seventh all-time in career passing yards with 50,625 yards. Rivers is 10th with 49,125. Rivers is a six-time Pro Bowler. Manning has been named to the Pro Bowl four times.

But there are those Super Bowl championships that separate the two.

Rivers and Manning are both likely heading for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If Rivers finishes his career without a championship on his resume, it will mean he would be following in the footsteps of another prolific Chargers quarterback without a ring – Dan Fouts.

Rivers may still have time to change that. He has led the resurgent Chargers to a 6-6 record this season, with 21 touchdowns and 3,292 yards passing. But he told Pro Football Talk on Wednesday that he has no plans on playing well into his 40s – like five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady’s plan.

“I don’t have a number in mind,” Rivers said of how long he plans to play. “I can tell you right now it ain’t going to be 45. I have no desire for it to be that long. I hope I help lead my son’s high school team to a state championship by the time I’m 45. I don’t think I’m going to have a helmet on when I’m 45.”

That state championship won’t likely fill the void that exists between the two NFL brothers in history, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning.

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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