Philip Rivers’ focus is 100-percent on preparing for the Cleveland Browns this Sunday.
However, even he knew he’d be asked about the New York Giants’ decision to bench Eli Manning in order to get a closer look at Geno Smith and Davis Webb.
After all, Rivers and Manning will forever be intertwined. Not only are they members of the same draft class, but they were famously traded for one another in one of the most notable draft day trades of all time.
Rivers has a ton of respect for Eli as a person and quarterback, and didn’t mince words when asked for his reaction.
"Honestly, I thought it was pathetic," Rivers said. "The guy, he’s been out there 210 straight games with no telling how many bumps, bruises and injuries for his team. He won two Super Bowl MVPs, and the respect he's had in the locker room over the years, and really the respect he's gained throughout the league, you just feel like the guy has earned an opportunity. If they are in fact deciding to go another direction, I feel like he's earned the opportunity to finish it off these last five weeks.
I just thought it was too bad the way it was handled. Eli, we’re not close buddies, but as a friend, 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. You felt he’s earned that, to be able to go out there these last five weeks.”
With Manning heading to the bench, Rivers will now own the longest active consecutive starts streak when he takes the field on Sunday. His 188th game will rank fourth in NFL history behind Brett Favre (297), Eli Manning (210) and Peyton Manning (208).
“I’m very thankful that I’ve been able to be out there every week,” Rivers said about his iron man streak. “I don’t take it for granted. I’ve been blessed to be healthy enough to be out there. There’s probably a little element of toughness, I guess, thrown in there. And it’s a heck of a job by your teammates, collectively, to help you stay upright.”
While Rivers’ comments on Manning made headlines, it’s what he had to say about the Browns that’s more important. Despite owning an 0-11 record, number 17 noted how impressive their defense looks on film. Truth be told, Cleveland ranks ninth in total defense (318.0 ypg), eighth against the run (97.2 ypg) and 13th against the pass (220.8 ypg).
“It’s a good group,” he said. “Obviously, there’s talented young players. A couple of veteran guys. They play hard. It’s a typical Gregg Williams style of defense. They’re very multiple in what they do, looks-wise, scheme-wise. They never let you get comfortable. They beat us last year. Going to the game last year, I know there’s no way to sugarcoat their record, but just watching the tape, every game they’re in. Every game they cause problems. Every game they cause turnovers. We know who’s coming in here, and we’ve got to be ready to regroup from our last couple of weeks, coming off a long weekend, and zero in on the Browns.”