How long does QB Philip Rivers really have left?
By Troy Rose
Philip Rivers is the most durable quarterback in the NFL not named Eli Manning, but every career comes to an end at some point.
Ever since taking over full-time for Drew Brees in 2006, Philip Rivers has captained the ship that is the Chargers. He has not missed a start in over a decade, something that only Giants QB Eli Manning can also say.
Over that stretch, he’s risen to 12th in history in career passing yards. He’s also currently standing at eighth in career passing TDs and career passer rating (94.7). His 3,811 completions ranks 10th all time, ahead of both his 2004 NFL Draft QB peers.
Statistically, Rivers is far and away the best QB of the 2004 draft. However, the Super Bowl success of Ben Roethlisberger and Manning make his career achievements somewhat overlooked.
At age 35, Rivers is nearing the age in which most of the all-time greats decide to hang it up. The Chargers know as much, as HC Anthony Lynn is considering drafting a QB in the 2017 draft. Rivers is adamant that he has plenty left in the tank, but is the team wrong for thinking towards the future?
Dec 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) runs onto the field before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
As stated before, Rivers is statistically the best QB from the famed 2004 draft class. In 2016, he finished top five in passing yards and fourth in passing TDs. He captained one of the top 10 scoring offenses in the NFL.
Rivers did all of the aforementioned without No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen or receiver Stevie Johnson. Instead, Rivers relied on an often unreliable Travis Benjamin and undrafted wideouts to fill the hole at receiver. Tyrell Williams was at the front of this corps, finishing with over 1,000 receiving yards in only his second year. Dontrelle Inman did his part, finishing with 810 yards and four touchdowns (all career highs). Don’t forget about the second-worst offensive line in football doing the 35-year-old no favors.
Make no mistake, Rivers has proven in the past that he can make something out of nothing if asked to.
The Not-So Good
Dec 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) is hit by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Robert Ayers (91) after he throws during the third quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Also, as stated before, the postseason achievements of Big Ben and Eli overshadow the statistical greatness of Rivers. He is constantly known as the one notable QB in the ’04 class without any Super Bowl hardware. Even more tragic is knowing that that ring is more than likely the only thing keeping him from being a Hall of Fame lock.
2016 was, overall, one of Rivers’ worst seasons as a pro. Despite the aforementioned stats, he did finish the year with plenty to work on for 2017. The Chargers’ QB finished with a career-high and league-leading 21 interceptions in 2016. While some of the picks were a result of tipped passes by receivers or poor route running, many fingers can also be pointed at Rivers for poor decision-making at times.
Rivers threw three interceptions in a game three times (at Broncos, vs. Dolphins and at Panthers) last year. He threw two interceptions seven times (the aforementioned three games plus vs. Saints, at Raiders, vs. Buccaneers and vs. Chiefs). His season passer rating of 87.9 was the second-worst of his career.
However, the most glaring part of Rivers’ down year in 2016 was the number of game-ending interceptions he threw. In games against the Saints, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Panthers and Raiders, Rivers threw the interception that sealed the win for the opponent. He has just nine combined wins over the past two seasons, which is never a good sign.
Nov 13, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) looks on from the field during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Philip Rivers may not be coming off of his best season ever, but that can be partially attributed to injuries around him. It’s never easy to succeed when a key piece of your team is lost for the year at the end of the season. At age 35, Rivers continues to build on his statistical dominance of the league, something that should continue in the immediate future.
Thinking about his successor is a justifiable action if you’re the Chargers, as Father Time remains undefeated. Rivers should absolutely play at a high level for another three to four years. After that, you don’t want to be out in the cold looking for a quarterback once he sharply declines or hangs it up.
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2017 isn’t the best draft to find Rivers’ successor, but in a year or two, the idea of finding Rivers’ replacement becomes immediate and must be addressed. The team that has been built in Los Angeles is good enough to contend for a playoff spot when healthy. Having no quarterback to lead that team kills any momentum the team could have in gaining traction in their new city.