LA Chargers News

The Strange Case for Philip Rivers as MVP

By Dennis J. Hassell
CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 09: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers calls a play during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at StubHub Center on December 9, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 09: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers calls a play during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at StubHub Center on December 9, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Chargers’ battle-scarred quarterback Philip Rivers is the dark horse in the NFL MVP voting (Sponsor:  Associated Press), —yet there is no criteria for the 50 NFL writers voting on the NFL MVP.  This national jury, however,  mostly analyze not game changers but statistics.

But where is the category for character? What is the NFL MVP metric for leadership? Where is the intangibles Rating for never, ever, ever, quitting?

HIDDEN FIGURES

“There are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics.”                                                              -Benjamin Disraeli

Saint Patrick Mahomes, is having a phenomenal season.  So is Drew Brees. Worthy NFL MVP candidates.  But put the Chargers’ Rivers behind the wheel of either of those teams and tell us if he could not do as well. Mahomes owns the lead in touchdowns and yards, and the best passer rating is with Brees. But look at the stats a little deeper, for degree of difficulty. For example, Rivers has endured many more sacks and hits, and offensive penalties by knucklehead teammates than Brees. Here’s a surprising stat for NFL MVP:

Philip Rivers has gutted out more comebacks from 14+ points down, than any NFL quarterback. Ever.  Two historic comebacks so far in an MVP caliber season.

Quarterback Philip Rivers
Quarterback Philip Rivers

Degree of difficulty

Delete from Brees’ and Mahomes’ teams the kinds of players Rivers has lost this year.

Erase their No. 2 receiver for absent tight end Hunter Henry, (out since before training camp),  subtract one of their starting cornerbacks (for Jason Verrett, IR),  and remove a starting offensive lineman for the disappeared Joe Barksdale.

Do you think Brees or Mahomes’ stats would be better than Rivers’ stats with that degree of difficulty?

Aside from the fact that Rivers just beat Mahomes head to head, setting a record for scoring 16 points in the last five minutes,  there is another cold comparison between Rivers and  Mahomes or Brees. In the long history of the National Football League, Philip Rivers has gutted out more comebacks from 14+ points down, than any quarterback. Ever.  Two of those have been in this season.

Some will insist that statistics are the only determining factor.  Alright then, let’s look at some telling stats from this year alone.

This season’s records by Rivers

  •  25 consecutive completed passes in one game:  Best ever in NFL history. 
  • 13 games with multiple touchdown passes, with two more games to go:  League Leading.
  • Down by 14 points with 5 minutes to play — and winning.  League record.
  • Where Pittsburgh led by 14 points at home, the Steelers were 222-0-2:   Rivers stopped one of the longest streaks in the history of the NFL.
  • Two comebacks from 14+ point deficits in the second half, besting Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger.
  • Chargers are 6-1 in games decided by only one score: League leading.

Deep statistical comparisons

  • Less interceptions than Mahomes and more yards than Brees.
  • Better completion  percentage than Mahomes, and twice the 40+ yard passes than Brees.
  • Dead heat with Brees on touchdowns, dead heat with Mahomes on yards per completion.
  • The Chargers’ rushing game has taken the ball out of Rivers hands a lot. Mahomes HAS to throw for 300+ yards every game because their Kareem Hunt-less run game is not as good.
  • Mahomes’ defense is so inconsistent on the back end, he has to throw and throw and throw. Rivers plays with a top ten defense, on what is, statistically the most balanced team in the league.

If Rivers slays the best defense in the league, and Mahomes muffs it against Seattle,  OR if Drew Brees is held out the last game of his season  and the Chargers are still scrapping for the AFC West crown in Week 17 in Denver, it might be worth checking Brees’, Mahomes’ and Rivers’ final numbers.

Even if the MVP vote relies entirely on calculations and not character, this campaign might become a very, very close election.

Because this dark horse is a war horse:  a Charger.

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