JOHN MARA REMINISCES ABOUT PICKING ELI OVER BEN
"John Mara remembers the Giants organization being torn on who
to take days before the 2004 NFL Draft.
or Ben Roethlisberger?
We all know what has happened
since. But it is always fun to look back and Mara fondly reminisced about
trading for Manning on WFAN radio on Tuesday.
"We went right to the last
day or two before the draft trying to decide between Eli and Ben Roethlisberger,
who obviously has been a great NFL quarterback as well," Mara said. "They both
have been brilliant. Really, the decision came down to one guy played in the
SEC, the best conference in the country, and the other guy played at Miami of
Ohio against obviously lesser competition."
"Also, [Manning] was on a
team at Ole Miss that didn't have a tremendous amount of talent and he kind of
carried that team on his shoulder," Mara added. "We felt he was the better pick
for us, but obviously either way they both ended up being great players."
Mara also recounted how his father, Wellington Mara,
wasn't keen on paying such a high price to get Manning, who was taken first
overall by the Chargers. Wellington Mara had a soft spot for Kerry
Collins but the Giants ended up trading Philip Rivers
(taken fourth overall), their 2004 third-round pick and 2005 first and
"It was not an easy decision," Mara said. "It was one
that even my father was against initially because he had such a strong feeling
for Kerry Collins, who had played so well for us and kind of resurrected his
career. I just felt like and Ernie Accorsi felt strongly also
that this guy had a rare talent and was worth taking a chance on."
admits he had some doubts early on when Manning struggled.
"I will tell
you there were times where I had some doubts," the Giants president and CEO
said. "I can remember so vividly the first minicamp practice that Eli was here
for. He just had a terrible day throwing the ball in a windy practice field out
here. It was going all over the place and he was surrounded by media and
"I remember thinking to myself, I hope it gets better than
this," Mara added. "Because we just gave up half the franchise to get this guy
and he is throwing the ball all over the place."
Mara chuckled as he
recounted that. It's fun for the Giants to look back on everything seeing how it
all turned out.
"It really wasn’t until the second half of the '04
season when he got into the games [and] he really struggled at first," Mara
said. "And then we had that final game of the '04 season when we beat Dallas at
home and he takes us down the field at the end of the game to win and that just
sort of kicked off his career for us."
"He certainly has had some ups
and downs since then," Mara added. "But I will take my chances with the ball in
his hand at the end the game every day."