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June 17, 2024

Eli Manning’s Draft Day Drama: The Story Behind the Origins of ‘Pulling an Eli’

Eli Manning’s Draft Day Drama: The Story Behind the Origins of ‘Pulling an Eli’

The selection that would permanently alter the course of many organizations’ fortunes made the 2004 NFL Draft a pivotal moment in football history, in addition to the extraordinary talent it brought to the league. Eli Manning,  the highly regarded Ole Miss quarterback, started a series of events that would have a lasting impact on football and coin a new phrase: “ pulling an Eli .” These events began on draft day when Manning took an unexpected step.

After Manning suddenly refused to play for the San Diego Chargers, who had chosen him with the first overall pick, fans wondered precisely what would happen. Nobody could have anticipated how this bold pick would impact not just Manning’s career but also the players and organizations on selection day.

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The entire football world watched in surprise as Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced that the San Diego Chargers had selected quarterback Eli Manning as the first overall select. The 23-year-old quarterback looked unhappy as he took the stage. Former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, Eli’s father, stated, “ He was not happy to be a Charger.   It was a hard decision, but we felt it was the right one .”


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The Mannings had made it quite apparent to the Chargers that even though Eli was the team’s most likely choice, he would not suit up. This audacious move rocked the draft, and the Chargers were left reeling from responding. Everything was in place for a historic deal that would change the trajectory of two franchises.

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Not only was Manning’s choice to make a statement on draft day historic for his career, but it also had far-reaching effects on the NFL. It proved the strength of belief and the determination to follow one’s path despite tremendous pressure and expectations.

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The idea of “ pulling an Eli ” has returned to haunt the football world as the 2024 NFL Draft draws near, with some fans and commentators wondering if elite prospects will bet on Manning’s success. Robert Griffin III’s recent counsel to Caleb Williams, urging him to think about making a similar move, has rekindled the discussion around player autonomy and the power relationships between draft prospects and franchises.

Manning’s 2004 choice challenged the idea that athletes must accept their fate without question, which had a long-lasting effect on the NFL. It allowed prospective draft picks to take charge of their careers and put their interests first.

Even though “ pulling an Eli ” is still uncommon, its significance is evident because people are still talking about it almost 20 years later. Teams now use it as a cautionary tale, highlighting the possible repercussions of selecting a player who might not be dedicated to their squad.


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The memory of Manning’s draft-day drama is a constant reminder of the conflict between player autonomy and the league’s demands as the NFL develops.

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