COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Philip Rivers of the Los Angeles Chargers did not mince words when he was asked for his reaction to fellow 2004 draft-class quarterback Eli Manning being benched by the New York Giants on Tuesday.
"I honestly thought it was pathetic," Rivers said Wednesday. "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."
Rivers and Manning are linked in NFL history because the Chargers made a draft-day trade that sent Manning to New York in return for Rivers and three other draft picks.
Giants owner John Mara admitted to some regrets about how the Manning situation played out.
"Maybe the timing of it could have been a little different. I wish I could've been here when that was all going down," Mara said when asked about it on Wednesday at owners meetings in New York.
Mara said he was surprised that when Manning was given the option of splitting time with other quarterbacks, he said to let them start if that's the direction the franchise wants to go. Geno Smith will start on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
"I was hoping it would turn out differently and he would continue to play some portion of the games, but at some point we'd work in the other quarterbacks," Mara said. "But he didn't want to do it that way, and I understand that. I respect him so much, and I'm not going to argue with him."
Manning had been the NFL's active leader in consecutive starts at 210, but Rivers will now take over the lead. He is scheduled to start his 188th consecutive regular-season game Sunday against the winless Cleveland Browns.
Rivers said he has not had a chance to talk with Manning since the news, but he watched Manning's comments to reporters after the Giants made their decision.
"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."