For the first time in his now 17 year career, Rivers entered free agency and joined the Indiana Colts. He ended his career on a high note after a close loss in the NFL Wild Card Round to the Buffalo Bills.
Nowadays it’s more common that players end their careers with a different team than the one they started at.
With the rise of Justin Herbert and the dismissal of Anthony Lynn, it was an eventful season for the Bolts. It makes you wonder what the season would look like if Rivers was the starting quarterback for one more season.
With Rivers retiring here’s what the season would look like if he played his last season with the Chargers.
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Justin Herbert’s role on the LA Chargers
The first step toward the 2020-2021 season is the NFL draft. The Chargers would still draft Herbert at six. Both Rivers and the organization would know that this season would likely be his last. The Chargers would know to draft his successor and with the sixth pick and Herbert ripe for the picking it’s an easy decision.
With Rivers under center, it erases Tyrod Taylor’s chances of starting and his punctured lung. One impressive stat about Rivers is his incredible iron man streak. In his entire 17 year career he has never missed a start. Even with the oddity that 2020 was, I don’t expect him to miss a game due to injury minimizing Herbert’s chances to play.
Since the Chargers went 2-7 after nine weeks it’s easy to say that Rivers would not change that record. It would be hard to displace Rivers given his resume, long time professionalism, and leadership. Lynn hesitated to keep Herbert in once Taylor was healthy again so we can assume Herbert doesn’t get minutes yet.
Being lenient, Herbert gets his start after the Miami defense eats up Rivers in week 10. With seven games left in the season, Herbert plays well but not at an offensive rookie of the year level. Herbert’s development isn’t impaired, just delayed.
Herbert still would have the potential to be a great quarterback in the league, but his growth would be postponed with less game experience and fewer high-pressure situations under his belt.
However, with the mentorship from both Rivers and Taylor, Herbert’s progress could be accelerated.
Anthony Lynn’s fate with the LA Chargers
During the 2019-2020 season where the team finished 5-11, many were quick to blame Rivers who deservedly had one of his poorer seasons. However, Lynn’s shortcomings quickly became exposed after a top-quality quarterback could no longer be the scapegoat for losing games.
It became a burning question of how many times Rivers had to change the play call at the line of scrimmage during that season.
Additionally, clock mismanagement errors would go down. With a veteran quarterback, he would eliminate a few of those botches but Rivers can’t fix everything.
Obviously, Rivers has no say over special teams so those blunders still happen and continue to jeopardize Lynn’s career.
The team’s overall performance would decrease with a lesser talented and skilled quarterback at the helm. This puts more pressure on Lynn but not as much as he actually faced in the 2020-2021 season.
Ultimately it still should be an easy decision to part ways with Lynn. His play call wasn’t good enough, his ability to blow leads and lose close games is unmatched and his special teams’ howlers were comedic by the end of the season. Rivers or Herbert doesn’t change that.
The LA Chargers’ record
A 7-9 record is mediocre, so it’s not out of reach for a 39-years old Rivers to achieve that. Every win this season was against a team that finished .500 or less minus a rested Chiefs team.
For this season it’s not a stretch to give Rivers those easier wins against some of the worst teams in the league. Los Angeles still beat Cincinnati and Jacksonville.
The latter half of the season is another talking point
In this scenario Rivers is benched in week 10 after Miami and only gets a chance to play again in the last game in Kansas City.
Herbert was the one who led the team in the three game-winning drives and if Rivers was the one in that position, the Chargers end the season with a better draft pick.
It comes down to the younger Herbert simply being more talented and skilled than a 39-year old who was never athletic.
So for this made-up season, Herbert loses one more of those close games due to his lack of professional football experience and the team finishes 6-10.
After the season Rivers retires and Herbert is ready to be the successor after 17 years from #17.