Kelly: Ever since he was traded to the Charges in the infamous Eli Manning deal back in 2004, Philip Rivers has intrigued me. I don’t think I can put my finger on exactly what it is, I’ve kept an extra eye on him throughout his career.
Maybe it’s his passion,
Or his ability to throw the deep ball,
Or maybe it’s because he looks like he’s having so much fun playing football:
Whatever it is, I think Rivers has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league since he came in, and the numbers back me up. On Sunday, Rivers moved passed Johnny Unitas and into 9th place on the all-time touchdown list, and put him 4th among active players, with 292.
Before the 2016 season even kicked off, Rivers was the Chargers’ franchise leader in regular season wins (92), touchdown passes (281 at that time), 400-yard games (8), consecutive starts (160), completions (3,462), completion percentage (64.8), passer rating (95.5) and even three-touchdown games (44).
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Rivers helped lead the Chargers on some incredibly successful runs. His first year as a starter in 2006 was a 14-win one that sent them to the playoffs, as the number 1 seed. (Spoiler alert – they lost to the Patriots in the divisional round…)
In 2007, Rivers took them back to the playoffs after an 11-5 season, only to be defeated by the Patriots again.
They went again to the playoffs in 2008, despite an 8-8 record, but lost in the divisional round. In 2009, it was my Jets, led by Mark Sanchez (!), who sent the Chargers home from the playoffs.
In fact, that year was a bit of a turning point for the Chargers franchise. LaDainian Tomlinson left after that year, taking away one of Rivers’ best targets. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
2011 and 2012 were misses as well. Mike McCoy was hired in 2013, and the Chargers returned to the playoffs, but once against couldn’t get past the divisional round, falling to the Broncos that year.
Since then, it’s been a bit downhill for the franchise. They went 9-7 in 2014, then 4-12 in 2015 and now they’re off to a 1-5 start to kick off 2016.
The thing is, despite their awful 5-17 record over the last two years, the Chargers used to be quite good. Our recency bias causes us to forget that this used to be a perennial contender, thanks in large part to Rivers.
I mean think about it. He played an AFC title game without an ACL! That’s absolutely unheard of.
But these days, Rivers and his Chargers have become the snake-bitten bottom-dwelling team of the AFC West.
Injuries have plagued them the last two, especially Rivers’ top target Keenan Allen. Rivers has helped turn guys like Danny Woodhead, Travis Benjamin and Malcolm Floyd into functional NFL talent.
Seriously, look at who Rivers currently has to throw to these days – Dontrelle Inman, Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams. His go-to tight end, Antonio Gates, who’s been crucial to Rivers’ success, missed the first few games again with injury. The resurgence of Melvin Gordon has helped ease the burden, but still Rivers has to throw to guys who might not be on an NFL roster.
But still, like other great quarterbacks in the league, Rivers helps to lift them up.
Rivers deserves better. He is arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now, and who at the age of 34 is running out of seasons in his prime.
The Chargers should have over the last few years invested heavily to win with him -giving him talented receivers, an offensive line that could protect him, and maybe a defense, that could perhaps get the other team off the field every now and then.
I don’t know what the Chargers plan is here – fire Mike McCoy? Call a team meeting? Get Philip’s kids jerseys and sign them up? They have Rivers inked up until 2019 so they have about two years to pull something together to give him a chance at getting to the Super Bowl, which is the only place he hasn’t gotten yet.
So even though, it might seem like the Chargers are incapable of winning a game right now, Philip, you still have your supporters so don’t be too angry.
Although, on second thought, don’t stop being you Phil.