Eli Manning doesn’t have many regrets about his professional football career. And why would he?

He’s a quarterback who emerged from a family that breeds NFL arms, and he’s now escaped from underneath his older brother’s very dark, and very tall shadow. He won a Super Bowl while being on the throwing end of one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history. He married a very attractive member of the opposite sex, and is a quarterback in one of the world’s largest media markets, the same city that’s home to another quarterback who’s more famous for his GQ shoots than his throwing skills.

His only regrets in life could be this picture, and manipulating the NFL draft.

But he doesn’t regret the latter discretion. He never will, and if Andrew Luck dialed his digits to discuss a similar move this year, he’d listen, and likely encourage. We’re only connecting the dots on that last part, just like ESPN’s Johnette Howard did when she talked to the younger Manning about the notion of a player manipulating the draft for the benefit of his future.

Manning, of course, infamously stated publicly prior to the 2004 draft that he wouldn’t play for the San Diego Chargers, the team that held that year’s first overall pick. He then smiled awkwardly after the Chargers selected him anyway, but he was a Charger for about an hour while a trade was completed that sent him to the Giants in exchange for Philip Rivers, who was selected with the fourth overall pick.

There’s been some discussion about Andrew Luck pulling a similar power move next April. You see, Luck doesn’t like it when teams talk about sucking for Luck, because a team that would even hint at intentionally losing games isn’t a team where Luck sees his football future. And a fan base that would support a team that sucks deliberately isn’t a fan base that Luck would enjoy playing in front of on Sundays.

Manning knows your pain, Andrew, and he’s content with his decision.

From Howard:

“No, I don’t have any regrets — I’ve enjoyed being here, enjoyed how everything worked out on the draft day, and, you know, I’m happy being a Giant and happy with what I’ve done here.”

But what’s more interesting than Eli–other than, well, anything–is what his backup had to say on the subject. In 2002 David Carr was selected with the first overall pick by the expansion Houston Texans.

While playing behind an offensive line that had only slightly more strength than an industrial-sized sheet of bubble wrap, Carr was sacked a record 76 times, and then in 2005 when the Texans had three years to improve he went down 68 times.

Carr didn’t have nearly the same hype as Luck, and therefore likely wouldn’t have had the power to force a trade. But if he could have, he probably would have.

“Quarterbacks are like any other player — we don’t like to get hit, either,” Carr said with a smile Wednesday. “If [Luck] has put himself in the position to be able to choose where [in the NFL] he can go, how can you blame him if he uses it?”

It’s easy to understand Carr’s stance. We’ll probably never know what he could have been since his potential was zapped by a force beyond his control, an unfortunate fate connected to the incompetence and idiocy that roamed the Texans’ sideline and front office suites at the time.

When Carr was signed by the 49ers in March of 2010, Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle reflected on how a dysfunctional Texans front office shattered a young man’s career. An early-season game against the Chargers during Carr’s rookie year was particularly troubling…

The Texans had opened with a surprising victory over the Dallas Cowboys, and then they flew to San Diego. That afternoon, Carr took perhaps the worst beating he would ever take, maybe one of the worst beatings any NFL quarterback has ever taken.

He was sacked nine times in a 24-3 loss to the Chargers, but those nine sacks tell only part of the story. Carr was hit at least a dozen other times. He was hit so often that there were times teammates wondered how he was still able to focus enough to call the next play.

Afterwards, he wore a frozen little smile as he talked about surviving the day. When Capers was asked why he’d left Carr out there to take such a pounding, he said he wanted Carr to be able to prove his toughness to the team’s veterans.

That’s the kind of unbridled, idiotic thinking that destroys confidence in a matter of games, and a managerial philosophy that’s stuck in brutish, barren football times.

Encouraging the undermining of a firmly embedded draft process feels wrong morally, probably because it is wrong morally. But if the Dolphins get the first overall pick, I wouldn’t lose any respect for Luck if he followed Eli’s example.

This is a dysfunctional franchise with an owner who jets across the country to interview the next coaching stud before dealing with his current coach. What’s worse is that the Dolphins’ recent Tim Tebow Day (a.k.a the Florida Gators 2008 championship reunion this past Sunday) with Tebow in town to make his first start of 2011 showed that profit is a far greater priority in Miami than the interests of players and fans.

A wayward workplace never attracts elite employees, and right now there’s little faith in Miami’s ability to mold a one-in-a-generation talent.