With the close of the 2019 season, it became clear that Philip Rivers may have played his final game with the Los Angeles Chargers.
What also seems clear is that Rivers, at 38 years old, intends to continue his playing career as he stated that he would play for a new team before retiring after the Chargers’ final game of the season, a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chargers seemed prepared for this to be Rivers’ final season with the team, despite the fact that No. 17 has started the last 224 regular-season games for the team — the second-most ever by a quarterback in league history.
Despite leading the Chargers to the divisional round of the playoffs last season, Rivers entered the 2019 campaign on the final year of his contract. At his age, a repeat performance was likely expected and the Chargers didn’t come close to those results.
The team finished last in the AFC West at 5-11 and the worst part is the fact that many of this season’s losses can be placed on the shoulders of Rivers, who threw 20 interceptions. Many of those interceptions came in the final moments of close games as the Chargers were driving for a game-winning or game-tying score.
If Rivers has had one major fault throughout his 16-year playing career, it’s that he often tries to do too much on his own, and that was certainly the case this season.
He addressed some of that in an emotional press conference following the season.
It would be hard for many Chargers fans to see Rivers playing somewhere else next season, but it happens. It’s rare for even the greatest quarterbacks to play their entire career with one team.
Joe Montana finished with the Kansas City Chiefs. Joe Namath last played for the Los Angeles Rams. Peyton Manning famously left the Indianapolis Colts and had a storybook ending with the Denver Broncos. And Johnny Unitas, perhaps the league’s first great passer, finished his career with, you guessed it, the Chargers.
As for the Chargers, they have both prepared for this and have the opportunity to fill the hole quickly. With it being the final year of Rivers’ contract, the team signed Tyrod Taylor, a terrific backup with plenty of starting experience. The team also holds the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.
Without Rivers, the team could begin the 2020 season with Taylor under center after drafting a guy like Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert, for example, at No. 6. Taylor could then hold the job down until that rookie quarterback was ready to take over.
That seems logical. So where does that leave Rivers? Well, there is a logical spot for him to land as well.
The Colts have the pieces to win right away, but the team was thrown a crushing blow right before the season started when Andrew Luck chose to retire. That thrust Jacoby Brissett into the starting role and though he did an admirable job, he might not be the starting quarterback the Colts are looking for.
But Rivers very well could be.
There’s also a coaching connection as Frank Reich, head coach of the Colts, was the Chargers’ quarterbacks coach in 2013, arguably the best of Rivers’ career.
That season, Rivers completed 69.5 percent of his throws (the highest of his career), threw for 4,478 yards with 32 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. Reich became offensive coordinator for the next two seasons, two years in which Rivers also played quite well.
For years, Rivers has played behind an offensive line that most would consider a below-average group. That is not the case in Indy, a team that might have the league’s best offensive line. Rivers may be licking his chops to play on a team like that.
The Colts also have the means to make such a deal happen. Currently, according to Overthecap.com, the Colts have the most available salary cap space of any team in the league.
What if the Colts used some of that money to bring in some familiar weapons for Rivers? Eric Ebron is a free agent, the Colts could replace him by signing Hunter Henry. Or, the Colts could make a huge offer to Austin Ekeler (a restricted free agent), one which the Chargers might not be willing to match.
Teams willing to go for it in one year do things like that.
Rivers would already have T.Y. Hilton, one of the league’s most dangerous deep threats, on the outside. He would also have some young developing wide receivers in Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal in addition to a steady running game led by Marlon Mack.
If the Colts were able to give him a piece or two from his old stomping grounds, suddenly a deal sending Rivers to Indianapolis doesn’t just seem logical, you might even be able to call it likely.