New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers are forever linked. They'll always be compared and placed side by side after what transpired on the afternoon of April 24, 2004, when the two were 20-somethings entering the NFL.
Manning was drafted first overall by the Chargers, who relocated from San Diego last season. He was later sent to the Giants for Rivers, who was selected fourth overall, in a blockbuster trade that shaped the future of both organizations.
Rivers has become the face of the Chargers. Manning, a two-time Super Bowl winner, is still the leader of the Giants. They've both rewritten the record books for their respective franchise.
Now entering their late 30s and on the back nine of their careers, the top quarterbacks selected in the 2004 draft meet again Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It's Manning vs. Rivers potentially for the final time, with Manning trying to get his first win in four tries against his draft classmate.
Meanwhile, the Chargers and Giants will each be aiming for their first win of the season.
Can the 0-4 records be blamed on the quarterback?
Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams: Quarterbacks are involved in more plays than any other position, so Rivers certainly warrants some of the blame for his team's winless record this season. Rivers has turned the ball over five times and opposing offenses have converted those miscues into 31 points. However, Rivers has been under pressure this season and still has thrown for 1,107 passing yards and six touchdowns through four games.
Giants reporter Jordan Raanan: It's certainly not all Manning's fault, but he's not completely off the hook. His offensive line and lack of run game make life difficult. But he also made only a handful of plays over the first 11 quarters of the Giants' season. That's not enough. Now, he has been better over the past five quarters -- when the Giants scored 47 points -- and is coming off his best game of the season in Tampa Bay. Still, his inability to navigate the pocket and make throws under pressure combined with the lack of a run game and struggling offensive line is a crushing combination. It makes it hard for the Giants to sustain offense. They have failed to get a first down or score on 37 percent of their possessions this season. That's 10th worst in the NFL.
How much longer will your quarterback play?
Williams: Since the start of the 2015 season, Rivers is 9-27 as a starter and in the midst of a nine-game losing streak. He has thrown 38 interceptions during that stretch. So Rivers hasn't played well of late. Of course, Rivers also was an injury replacement in the Pro Bowl last season, finishing with 4,386 passing yards and 33 touchdown passes. It's the eighth year Rivers has thrown for over 4,000 passing yards. If surrounded by enough playmakers and provided with adequate pass protection, Rivers can still make enough plays for his team to execute at a winning level for another three years. But the Chargers have not taken a quarterback in the draft since 2013 and need to figure out a strategy to find Rivers' eventual replacement.
Raanan: Manning is going to play until the Giants don't want him anymore. It's really that simple. He's signed through the 2019 season, but there are outs in his contract. The Giants could sever ties any time after this season and survive financially and against the salary cap. Manning will be 37 before the Super Bowl and said earlier this summer he would like to play into his 40s. He would need a major resurgence to reach that goal. Right now he's a middle-of-the-road quarterback, at best. His durability has been his greatest strength throughout his career and his arm has held up relatively well. He hasn't missed a game since, well ... ever.
Will your quarterback end his career with the Giants/Chargers?
Williams: The Bolts' brass would like for Rivers to retire a Charger. Rivers is signed through the 2019 season and has said he would like to be around when the team opens its new stadium shared with the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood in 2020. Rivers does a great job of taking care of his body and staying in shape. He hasn't missed a game in over a decade, so it's not inconceivable he could be playing as he nears 40 years old. But the Chargers have to start winning games sooner rather than later to justify keeping a quarterback around who turns 36 years old in December, particularly as they try to win over new fans in Los Angeles.
Raanan: Yes. Manning has made his life in New Jersey. He's one of these "Giants for Life." He built a house in the suburbs 20 miles west of East Rutherford, and he's not about to uproot his wife and three young daughters to add an extra year or two onto what is arguably a Hall of Fame career. Manning already has two Super Bowls, already has enough money and doesn't care about the spotlight one iota. He won't be one of these late-career mercenaries. In fact, his father, Archie, told me at the Super Bowl two years ago he thought Eli would hang it up rather than move to a new city at this point of his career and life. Nothing has changed since that time to make me think otherwise.