After 228 games and 7,591 throws over 16 years, Philip Rivers’ storied LA Chargers career has come to an end.
The Chargers and Philip Rivers announced that they mutually parted ways on Monday. Despite reports in previous weeks that this was coming, including Rivers announcing his move to Florida, part of me still wanted to hold out hope that it would change.
Rivers is a huge part of why I became a Chargers fan back in 2005. His play along with that of LaDanian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates was an absolute treat to watch. Rivers is also a reason that many remained Chargers fans through troubling times. Whether it was a bad season, the move to Los Angeles, or a heartbreaking loss, he was there, trying his absolute hardest:
QB1 is all heart. pic.twitter.com/kNalRfkWY7
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) December 29, 2019
When I saw that clip scrolling through my twitter feed back in December, it was what finally broke me into tears. I’m not someone who gets overly emotional when it comes to sports as a whole.
Obviously, following the ups and downs of a team leads generally to feelings of excitement and disappointment. But the end of Rivers as a Charger to some extent meant something deeper to me. Rivers wasn’t just why I was a Chargers fan or liked football. He was an entry point into sports for a young kid who couldn’t even begin to explain what a post route or a 3-4 defense meant.
The emotional highs of Rivers were always something that felt relatable. Sure, quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Joe Montana represent the stoic nature a football player is supposed to have.
But that’s lame. Give me the guy who throws jabs at Yannick Ngakoue after a 90-yard touchdown, or the guy who always got into shouting matches with Jay Cutler and the Denver Broncos back in the day! My favorite moment in recent years that had me non stop laughing was the first down run vs. Baltimore where he gave the cockiest first down signal ever.
His passion also was shown through his toughness. The iron man streak of starts being second behind only Brett Favre’s is still an amazing stat, considering everything he’s medically been through. Of course, everyone remembers Rivers tearing his ACL vs. Indianapolis in the 2007 playoffs and then still playing the very next week vs. New England in the AFC Championship Game.
Looking back on it though, the more impressive thing may have been the fact that Rivers didn’t miss a step in the offseason. Just a mere 100 days after tearing his ACL, Rivers was back at minicamp in May.
Considering ACLs sidelined players oftentimes for a year or a year and a half at the time, it’s still so shocking he was able to do that. Whether it was a bulging disk in his back, a concussion, or his knee being destroyed, Rivers wanted to be out there.
Another honorable thing when it comes to Rivers as a person was how he was around his family. Former Chargers’ managing editor Ricky Henne wrote a piece on the team’s website last year where he got a chance to speak to the whole Rivers family.
He always seemed to make time even when it didn’t exist. Even with a hellish four-hour commute every day to and from work, No. 17 would always make time for his wife and kids.
Whenever some of the older kids got a chance to go to the games at Qualcomm Stadium or StubHub Center/Dignity Health Sports Park over the most recent years, you could tell they were always elated to see their dad there. Videos of them playing catch together always warmed my heart.
The absurdity of having nine kids is still funny to most of us on the outside though, as something we couldn’t even envision. A Madden player demonstrated this by having a whole starting 11 of the family a few years ago.
As said earlier, Rivers made the bad times easier to cope with as fans. I’ve always been on the east coast my whole life, so San Diego doesn’t mean to me what it does to other people.
However, there have been plenty of fans who in spite of the move still rooted for the Chargers wherever they might be in California. A huge part of that in my opinion from an outsider’s perspective was Rivers.
Whether the team was in San Diego or Los Angeles, Rivers was what everyone still identified with. The team could move to the North Pole and some would still follow a franchise icon like him.
Going back to the actual games, there was always one classic Rivers scenario that endeared me to him from week to week. Situations where the Chargers were tied, or down on the final drive. It’s crazy how many nail-biters they have played over the years, as it feels statistically higher than other teams.
Rivers would seem to try to make garbage into gold every week.
The final Rivers comeback that will be really prominent in most fans’ minds will be the 2018 Kansas City game at Arrowhead. Having not won there in such a long time with nine consecutive losses to the Chiefs overall, Rivers in the guts of the game threw a 4th-and-8 dart to Travis Benjamin to keep the game alive.
He didn’t really play well most of the game, but when the comeback started, he was amazing in the fourth quarter. That Mike Williams two-point conversion is one of my favorite Chargers memories of all time.
Thank you, Philip Rivers, for showing me what fiery passion looks like every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. Thank you for your personality and drive. Thank you for coping with the bad times while also showing us some incredibly good moments we’ll always remember.
Thank you for teaching me what family means to you. Thank you for the awesome mic’d up trash talk. Thank you for leading this team. Super Bowl or not, you’re my quarterback. Now, I can only hope the next Chargers’ quarterback is half the leader you were.