Philip Rivers is moving on from the Los Angeles Chargers, starting a new, and the final, chapter of his long-storied career.
In the storyline of the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020, various “plot points” have considerable intrigue, but I am more fascinated by what I think could be a story of national interest. Philip Rivers is the story of a king without a kingdom. That is the tale I’d title…
The Curious Case of the Dad Gum Quarterback
Good characters make a good story, and the character of ex-Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers is a strong one. Rivers is full of seeming contradictions:
He is the league’s undisputed top trash-talker — but he never, ever swears, and never makes his needling personal.
He makes about 24 million dollars a year — but you get the strong sense he is not about the money (EG, he agreed with the Los Angeles Chargers to not re-sign last winter, until the end of last season).
He talks openly about his Christian faith — but never exploits that in his football interviews unless asked point-blank.
He is the consummate professional on the field — but also allows himself to be emotional. His interview after his last game as a Charger, choking back tears, was honest, raw, and in pro sports, rare.
“I gave it all I had” – Philip Rivers
The biggest contradiction is this: Philip Rivers is an excellent player and field general — but his best chances to win a Super Bowl were cruelly dashed multiple times:
1. Marlon McCree fumbled his interception return against the Patriots when he could have fallen to the turf and let his team run the clock out. Patriots win. Gol-LEE!
2. Kicker Nate Kaeding repeatedly wobbled on very makeable crucial field goals. DANG it!
3. The AFC Championship game, doomed because LaDainian Tomlinson was so injured he could not outrun New England’s linebackers, plus Gates was at about 70%, and of course, Rivers played on one knee, with the cartilage removed from the other. Dadgummit!
4. As recently as 2018, when the Los Angeles Chargers’ coaches were de-pantsed by Belichick and company, which exploited the fact that the Chargers’ linebacker corps was sorely depleted, and their offensive line was the keystone cops. Again. Gosh darn it!
This long backstory of hope deferred creates the..
Top Five Storylines for the Final Chapter of #17
1. Will Rivers get picked up at all?
It’s not a given, considering both his age and his performance in his most recent season. What have you done for me lately? Also, no way would Rivers sign to be a backup or to enter a “win it in training camp” scenario.
He doesn’t need the money, he doesn’t care about padding his stats, and he has ten good reasons to retire. I don’t remember all ten names, but he has a full offense team at home, ready for him to be their full-time QB.
2. Will Rivers get picked up by a genuine contender?
In my fantasy league, if Rivers can sign with the Colts, considering their coaches’ history with Rivers, and their players, especially their boo-ya offensive line, I’m putting in a “Buy” order. The roadblock is that I doubt the Colts will bail on their still-developing draft pick QB, Jacoby Brissett.
Old Man Rivers could also have a great year with the Buccaneers, under Bruce Arians, but the chances of winning it all in Tampa Bay become minuscule. I’ll predict right here and right now that the Raiders, Panthers, Chicago, etc, will never be the serious discussion, nor have the interest. And Washington? Child, please: the adults are talking.
3. Will Rivers bounce back in his play?
“The Old Lion” is a great story premise. For example, if you saw injured Kirk Gibson limp to home plate in the 1988 World Series, as a pinch-hitter, in his twilight as a player, you would never forget it.
Even if Gibson struck out, you would not forget it, because the air was electric with possibilities. As it happened, he hit a walk-off home run, and in the next game, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the championship.
4. Will Rivers’ new team make the playoffs? Even better, what if the Colts play the Los Angeles Chargers in the playoffs? That would be a very good story.
5. Will Rivers’ team make the Super Bowl? If so, Tiffany Rivers should sign their life rights over to Disney before kickoff time, no matter the final outcome.
“Philip Rivers: the Movie”
Speaking of sports movies, if I was writing the screenplay (working title, “That’s My Quarterback”) the climax would indeed be at the Super Bowl. Rivers and the Colts would be down five points and it’s fourth and goal at the one-yard line, just seven seconds left. Their running plays have been stuffed at the goal line three straight times.
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With the roar of the crowd, and Rivers, in shotgun, switching up the play at the line of scrimmage, his center doesn’t hear Rivers screaming, clapping his hands for the ball.
The Colts are called for delay of game. The nightmare is happening again.
Now they are six yards away from winning. Rivers’ helmet is pounding with noise, with memories, with fear. Cut to his wife Tiffany and his umpteen kids in the first row of the stands, all gripping each other as if they are about to crash their van.
Rivers’ football life flashes in a montage: the little kid working as a ball boy, shot-putting the too-large ball to throw it. The bitter playoff disappointments. The grind.
The ball is hiked. Rivers hands off to a jet sweep right, who hands it back to a receiver racing the other way, who flips the ball back to Rivers, who is forced to run left, fights off a tackle, — and then his wide-open wide receiver slips and falls. Rivers pump-fakes, then does what no one in the world expects.
He lumbers. He staggers. At the one-yard line, linebackers stand him up, then Rivers gives a war cry, and inches forward, one man against three. Half a dozen Colts push him from behind, everyone piles in, the crowd goes nuts, and a massive clash of wills ensues…
He falls short by inches.
Rivers runs dry. The life-long football carousel finally stopped, and he never did grasp the ring. The game-winners leap and dance away, the Colts trudge off, but Rivers lays motionless on the field of battle. Is he unconscious? Is he dead? No, he is spent. Voice-over: “I can honestly say, in every game, I gave it all I had”.
One of Phil’s daughters, concerned for her father, slides through the railing, lands on the sidelines, and runs towards her dad. The oldest runs after her little sister, who is now dodging between giant celebrating warriors. Then another child climbs down, and another and another. Soon Rivers is under a dogpile of nine kids.
They drag him across the goal line. They lift him up like a fallen king upon his shield.
The stadium buzzes, people stand to see. LT is reporting on the sidelines, with his unique smile. He says to no one in particular, “that’s my quarterback“. Now no one is looking at the trophy. Even the TV commentators have nothing to say.
Because if you have to explain the story, you wouldn’t need the story.