This is the tale of two rookie quarterbacks in the National Football League, a tale of triumph and defeat and a tale of greed and irony. It is the tale of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and New York Giants rookie quarterback Eli Manning. The tale began in New York City during late April’s NFL Draft. A young 23-year old quarterback out of the SEC’s Ole Miss by the name of Eli Manning was the hottest commodity among all potential NFL draft selections. Manning came from a football family, his father Archie was selected second overall in the 1971 NFL draft and had a long career with the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, and Minnesota Vikings. Eli’s older brother, Peyton, was drafted first overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 and has become the NFL’s biggest star. It’s obvious Eli Manning has football in his blood.
The San Diego Chargers were the team that held the NFL draft’s first pick and they were set on selecting Eli Manning to be the future of their franchise. However, Eli and his father Archie had different plans. Eli and Archie Manning informed the San Diego Chargers four days before the draft that Eli would not play for the San Diego Chargers if selected first overall. The Manning’s wishes became public when Chargers general manger A.J. Smith leaked the message to ESPN. Archie Manning didn’t want his son to play for the San Diego Chargers, fearing that the Chargers had no future, or perhaps that they played to far from home. Instead Archie Manning wanted his son to play for the New York Giants, a franchise that appeared to have a bright future.
On draft day, the San Diego Chargers made Eli Manning the first overall selection despite his and his father’s wishes. Manning had a look of anger upon his face that afternoon as he donned a San Diego Chargers hat in front of photographers. That look of anger on Manning’s faced changed to a smile later on that day when NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced that a trade had been made between the San Diego Chargers and the New York Giants. The Chargers had decided to swap Manning to New York for the Giants first round selection quarterback Phillip Rivers out of North Carolina State. The greedy Manning family had gotten their wish. Later on in the first round when the Pittsburgh Steelers were up to select a player, they surprised many by taking Ben Roethlisberger out of the small University of Miami of Ohio. It would be a selection that would soon turn into the steal of the entire draft.
During the second week of the season Pittsburgh Steelers starting quarterback Tommy Maddox was lost for a significant time due to injury. The Steelers were forced to start rookie Ben Roethlisberger the next week against the Miami Dolphins. Roethlisberger went on to win the game, and the next week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to victory once again. Throughout the next few weeks, Roethlisberger took command of the Steelers offense and defeated the rival Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys.
Following a bye week, the Steelers faced the New England Patriots who at the time held the longest consecutive win streak in NFL history. It would be Roethlisberger’s first real shot to prove himself as an NFL quarterback. To everybody’s amazement the Steelers went on to upset the Patriots winning the game handedly 34-20. The following week the Steelers faced another undefeated team, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Steelers romped through the Eagles like they were a high school team, beating them 27-3. The next two weeks Roethlisberger defeated the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals for the second time each this season. Roethlisberger was riding the waves of an eight game winning streak, and continuing to amaze football fans everywhere. The Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Jets were all set down in the weeks that followed, extending Roethlisberger’s streak to eleven consecutive games won as an NFL quarterback, a streak that is unheard of.
Meanwhile, in the Big Apple, Giants coach Tom Coughlin handed over the reigns of quarterback to Eli Manning mid way through the season when Kurt Warner failed to get the job done. Manning played horribly over the next few weeks throwing only one touchdown pass and six interceptions. Despite his horrible play, Coughlin chose to stick with the young quarterback. In week fifteen with Roetlisberger’s win streak still intact and Manning’s losing streak also intact, the two met each other for the first time in their careers. For the first time all season Eli Manning showed promise, and even had his squad in the lead for a good margin of the game, but as he had done all season long Roethlisberger led his team back and defeated Manning’s Giants 33-30.
The victory of the Steelers over the Giants pretty much summarizes the year the two young rookie quarterbacks are having. For Roethlisberger it has been a triumphant year that will lead him to the playoffs, and possibly winning the Super Bowl. For Manning, it will be a year to forget. Oh, and one more little thing, the San Diego Chargers, the team that Manning refused to play for because he felt the organization was going nowhere, are as of December 19th 10-3, and playoff bound. Hey Eli, how’s that for irony.