This weekly series analyzes the top quarterbacks in the NFL from a Chargers fan’s perspective.
A lot of my friends have asked me if I’d still be a Chargers fan if the team bolted to Los Angeles after 57 years in the beautiful San Diego sun.
Jul 30, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) looks on during training camp at Chargers Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Technically, I shouldn’t really care that much if the Chargers move, as I am a Bolts fan on the wrong side of the country. Besides, when I did live in California, I resided in the L.A. area, 123 miles north of San Diego.
Every time I get asked that question, however, I still answer it the same way: “The Chargers belong in San Diego. Just because I’m over here on the East Coast does not mean I can deny that fact. I’ll root for the team until Phil retires, and once he’s preferably on his way to Canton, the team is practically dead to me.”
Because gosh flippin’ darnit am I a fan of Philip Rivers.
No. 6: Philip Rivers, San Diego
2015 Stats: 437 CMP/661 ATT, 66.1% CMP%, 4,792 YDS, 29TD, 13 INT, 93.8 Passer Rating
Aug 13, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) gestures during the first half against Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports
Assuming you had the unfortunate experience of sitting through every single Chargers game from a season ago, you would be utterly shocked, amazed and stupefied to see how solid Rivers’ stats ended up being. That’s how I felt–at first.
The Chargers used 24 different offensive line combinations in 2015. 24. The previous year, five different large men suited up to play the center position in front of Rivers. Even then, Rivers almost single-handedly willed the Chargers to a playoff berth, no thanks to offensive coordinator Frank “How Do You Football” Reich and Head Coach Mike “I Still Have a Job…?” McCoy.
But seriously…how does he still have a job? It’s up there with some of those grand, unanswerable questions. You know, “What is the true meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything?” or “Was Leo dreaming at the end of Inception?”–those kinds of questions.
It’s truly incredible that two seasons ago, Rivers was an MVP candidate through eight weeks. It’s even more implausible that the Trash-Talker from Decatur put up even somewhat competent stats this past season, with an O-Line, D-Line and run game that ranked among the worst in the league.
And then, you remember just how good Rivers is and has been for his entire career. For all the uneducated out there–and believe me, there’s many who deem the Chargers’ QB irrelevant and not even Top 10–here’s a list of his career stats, and the elite company he’s in:
- Since 2006, Rivers is fourth in touchdown passes, behind only Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. His completion percentage ranks fifth, his passer rating sixth, his yards per attempt third and his 88 wins third.
- Rivers has led the NFL in completion percentage (2013), passer rating (2008), touchdowns (2008), yards per attempt (2008, 2009, 2010) and yards (2010). From 2008-10, he had a passer rating of 103.8. 103.8. That’s on par with Aaron Rodgers’ 2009-on excellence.
- Rivers has four seasons with a passer rating of at least 100; Rodgers, Manning and Steve Young are the only quarterbacks with more.
The list goes on and on, without even mentioning Rivers’ five Pro Bowl appearances and additional alternate nominations.
Of course, there’s the argument that stats can be taken with a grain of salt. Hell, that’s what most people I know say when I try to explain just how dominant Rivers is and has been.
Also, as highlighted above, most of Rivers’ career seasons came in the Chargers’ heyday, when the team routinely made the playoffs and Rivers had Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates to throw to, as well as the best running back of a generation. Rivers is currently a helluva lot closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
Nevertheless, Rivers shows no sign of slowing down, even at the modest age of 34. And he might have the roster and necessary coaching this season to put together another one of those seasons, a season that we’ll all look at in 30 years and think…Damn, was Rivers a good quarterback? It’s almost like…ya know…if he had a decently-run organization for his entire career, he coulda gone and won the Big One.
Aug 13, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Tennessee won 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
I have already addressed my thoughts on McCoy’s choice of headwear, but I do not think I have gone so far as to blatantly say that he is really bad at his job. Like, really bad. He brings Rivers and this team down very, very much with horrible game management. It’s funny to think just three seasons ago, after his rookie year of coaching, pundits around the league were praising the guy who seemingly brought Rivers back into the spotlight as well as lead the Bolts to the divisional round.
Yeah, nope. That was not McCoy. That was Ken Whisenhunt.
Whisenhunt is the biggest offseason addition for the Chargers. Upgrading from Reich back to the Whiz can not be understated; it’s truly a bigger deal than adding Travis Benjamin, Matt Slauson or any of the other guys from free agency or the draft. It’s an even bigger deal than that world-crushing, J.J. Watt prototype we supposedly drafted with the third overall pick.
What’s that guy’s name again? Sorry, I’m starting to forget. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him in something resembling a Chargers uniform.
Anyway, the one year Whisenhunt called the plays for the Bolts, Rivers had one of the best–and most efficient–years of his career. Whisenhunt made up for terrible O-Line play by installing a quick-read offense in which screen passes and checkdowns are the norm, instead of forced long balls and shotgun run after shotgun run. With a lot of the same pieces from the 2013 season still available, there’s absolutely no reason the Chargers can’t boast a top-five offense once again.
And those pieces look quite good. The offensive line and defense overall once again have quite a lot of question marks. Nonetheless, a solid running back group with lots of upside combines with a very talented wide receiver corps to form a juggernaut on offense this season.
I absolutely hated general manager Tom Telesco’s move to trade up and take Melvin Gordon No. 15 overall in the 2015 draft. He could’ve been the Rookie of the Year (spoiler alert: he wasn’t) and I still would have hated the pick. However, if Gordon realizes his potential this year, especially with Whisenhunt calling the shots, this unit becomes absolutely lethal. Because backing up Gordon is Danny Freakin’ Woodhead, the best third-down running back in the game. The short white guy will always be underrated, but what Woodhead does for this offense cannot be replicated easily. And as your third guy, Branden Oliver completes what could be a top-10 trio of backs when the season comes to a close. A lot of luck needs to come in, with the offensive line being so shoddy in years past. I wholeheartedly believe this group becomes a positive this season. Look no further than the offensive coordinator’s office to get your answer.
Jun 14, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) gestures to quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during minicamp at Charger Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
And boy, do the receivers look good. Keenan Allen is a top-10 receiver in this league, with route running generally unparalleled by most of his counterparts. Don’t believe me? Just wait until the end of the season and you’ll have your answer, barring another freak kidney injury, of course. I loved the addition of Benjamin, an accomplished deep threat who gets no credit for his overall polished game. Pairing him with Rivers just begs for a great season for the former Brown.
The real mystery here: Tyrell Williams. The second-year pro came out of nowhere to make the roster last season. This offseason, the 6-foot-3 Williams is the talk of camp. It’s mind-boggling that a guy the Bolts clearly had future plans for saw little game action in a throwaway season. In spite of that, we get to see what Williams brings to the table as a sophomore. My guess? Williams starts across from Allen and becomes a dominant WR2.
Rounding out the group is some combination of James Jones, Javontee Herndon, Dontrelle Inman and Isaiah Burse. I think the Chargers would be stupid to let Jones go; he’s arguably better than the recently IR’d Stevie Johnson when both are healthy. Burse seems like the best option at fifth receiver–his contract cheap, his return skills solid, his approach hungry. However it may shake out, the Chargers come into this season with one of the best receiver groups in the league.
To sum it all up, I believe Rivers comes into 2016 with a chip on his shoulder. His lone losing season before 2015 came in 2012, when the Bolts posted a 7-9 record. I’d wager Rivers settles for nothing less than an outstanding 2016 campaign. The return of Whisenhunt and a healthy Allen, along with a great TE duo of Gates and Hunter Henry, means the 34-year-old puts together a great run.
And, after all this, you still don’t think Rivers is a good quarterback, or you don’t think everything I’ve just said warrants his No. 6 rating on my Top 10 list, I have just four words for you.
Watch a Chargers game.
Due to some personal conflicts, I’ll be returning shortly to reveal my Top 5 Quarterbacks heading into 2016!