Philip Rivers: Is His Best Behind Us?

By Ernie Padaon
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Aug 8, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) and running back Ryan Mathews (24) during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Guest post by Michael Pina , writer for ESPN’s TrueHoop Network. 

Only three years older than Joe Flacco, and two years removed from throwing for more yards than every other quarterback in the league, a serious question needs to be asked about Philip Rivers: Will he ever be the same?

Before answering, or trying to, let’s first define what “the same” means. From 2008 to 2010, Rivers had a three-season stretch for the ages. Starting in 2008, Football Outsiders ranked him as the best quarterback in the league going by their DVOA ranking (measuring per play value over an average quarterback), and third best going by DYAR (measuring a quarterback’s value by his performance compared to the replacement level).

In 2009 he was first, again, in DVOA, and third in DYAR. In 2010 he was third in DVOA and second in DYAR. The consistency here is staggering, crested on a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees level of awesome (without the playoff success).

San Diego went 30-18 during that stretch.

If last season’s performance was any indication of what Rivers has in store until his contract expires in 2017, the Chargers should probably start looking for their next franchise quarterback. But how much of his poor play can be attributed to the lack of competent players around him, and how much hinges on the various brain farts we repeatedly witnessed?

It’s tough to say which factor carries more meat, with both serving as a legitimate explanation. But, regardless, if the team fails again and Rivers looks more like he did last year than in the previous four, what are San Diego’s options? Pending what’s available on the market, should they trade him (fetching a package similar to what the Bengals received for Carson Palmer is probably not going to happen) or, delay the inevitable and supplement him with more talent (Eddie Royal is currently San Diego’s number two wide receiver. Eddie. Royal.)

They drafted three offensive players in April: RT D.J. Fluker (11th overall), WR Kennan Allen (76th overall), and QB Brad Sorensen (221st overall).

San Diego appears to be keeping a starting fullback, according to its latest depth chart, which helps with pass protection and the running game but doesn’t necessarily work in Rivers’ favor (as opposed to a two tight end set, or three starting wide receivers).

Is it a sign of him holding back the team’s ability to modernize its offense? Or does it mean something else?