Philip Rivers: Decision to bench Eli Manning is “pathetic”

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COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers will have the NFL's longest active streak of consecutive starts by a quarterback after Eli Manning gets benched by the New York Giants this weekend.

And Rivers isn't happy about it.

"I honestly thought it was pathetic, really," Rivers said Wednesday when asked about the Giants' decision.

"The guy, he's been out there 210 straight games with no telling how many bumps and bruises and injuries for his team," Rivers added before practice with the Los Angeles Chargers.

"Won two Super Bowls, MVPs, the respect he's had in the locker room over the years, really the respect he's gained throughout the league, you feel like the guy has earned the opportunity, if they are deciding in fact to go another direction (after the season) ... to finish off these last five weeks."

Manning's streak of 210 consecutive regular-season starts is expected to end Sunday when Geno Smith starts for the Giants against Oakland.

Manning has started 222 consecutive games overall, including 12 playoff games, since getting the starting job during his rookie season on Nov. 21, 2004.

Although Rivers and Manning aren't close friends, their careers have been inextricably linked ever since both quarterbacks were chosen high in the 2004 draft and then traded for each other.

Rivers said he had been thinking a great deal about Manning since hearing the news.

"I just thought it was too bad, just the way it was handled," Rivers said. "As a fellow quarterback, it was tough to watch him yesterday. You can only imagine how he felt. But he handled it like a pro, like he's handled everything. But you just hate to see him ... you felt he's earned that. He's earned that, to go out there for the last five weeks."

Rivers will start his 188th consecutive regular-season game on Sunday when the surging Chargers (5-6) host the winless Cleveland Browns.

Rivers has started 196 consecutive games overall, including all nine of the Chargers' playoff games since he became their starter for the 2006 season opener.

Rivers' streak was in jeopardy two weeks ago after he self-reported symptoms of a concussion, but he has given back-to-back outstanding performances for the Chargers, who are surging into the playoff race.

His regular-season streak is the fourth-longest in NFL history, trailing only the streaks by Brett Favre (297) and the Manning brothers. Peyton Manning started 208 straight regular-season games.

"Eli and Peyton both, you think about those two Mannings and what they've done over 400-something games those guys were out there in a row," Rivers said. "Speaks to their toughness, their competitiveness, and to their team."

Rivers, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were all first-round picks in the 2004 draft, and all three are now among the top 10 passers in NFL history.

The San Diego Chargers had the top pick, but Manning and his father, Archie, said Eli would refuse to play for them.

The Chargers selected Manning anyway, forcing him to pose with a jersey and then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue for one of the most awkward photos in draft history.

The Giants then selected Rivers with the fourth overall pick and traded him to the Chargers along with draft picks used on two eventual Pro Bowl players: linebacker Shawne Merriman and kicker Nate Kaeding.

While Manning broke into the Giants' starting lineup as a rookie, Rivers waited two years behind Drew Brees. Rivers took over in 2006 and eventually became the 10th-leading passer in NFL history with 48,781 yards. Manning is seventh with 50,625 yards.

Manning has endured an up-and-down season with the injury-plagued Giants, but Rivers is still going strong with the revitalized Chargers.

He is the AFC's offensive player of the week after putting up one of the best games of his career in Dallas on Thanksgiving, going 27 of 33 for 434 yards with three touchdowns.

Rivers will turn 36 years old next week, and he hasn't decided how much longer he wants to play. He kept his family in San Diego when the Chargers relocated to Orange County in the offseason, but he has shown no public interest in slowing down, and his starting job is in no jeopardy.

But Rivers also realizes that could all change at any time.

"Shoot, I don't take it for granted," Rivers said of his streak. "A lot of it is I've been blessed to be healthy enough to be out there, and there's probably a little element of toughness, I guess, thrown in there, and then it's a heck of a job by your teammates all collectively to help you stay upright."

NOTES: The Chargers signed kicker Travis Coons to their practice squad in case Nick Novak can't recover from his back injury in time for Sunday's game. Novak missed most of the Chargers' win in Dallas. Coons kicked for the Browns in 2014 and 2015, and he spent part of training camp last summer with the Rams. ... The Chargers waived tight end Braedon Bowman to make room.

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