According to several reports this evening, San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers is still and is likely to remain Philip Rivers for the remainder of the season and possibly for the rest of his career. The enigmatic 10-year veteran went 14-29 for 195 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Houston Texans in San Diego. Victory seemed to be in firm grasp when the Chargers headed into the 4th quarter with a 21 point lead. In true Philip Rivers fashion, he threw an untimely and costly INT to Texans LB Brian Cushing who was kind enough to return it 18 yards for a TD to tie up the game with about nine minutes left in regulation. The Texans would go on to win with a 41 yard Randy Bullock FG as time expired. Philip Rivers was seen on the sideline making a myriad of strange faces.
It wouldn’t be fair to pin this loss or any other squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Rivers. It takes 53 to tango. It also doesn’t help that he is sacked a lot. Like 222 times in his career. In fact, only seven active QB’s have been sacked more in the past 10 years and Ben Roethlisberger and David Carr are two of them. So, like a lot. Nor does it help that the Charger’s defense has gone through several transitions throughout Rivers’ career, and they have only been decent at their best. However, has there been a QB in the past decade that has made more of a statistical splash without anything to show for it than Rivers? Bueller? Bueller? I don’t think so. He’s a fantasy football stud, but when it matters he’s a reality football dud.
Rivers has thrown for over 28,000 yards (sure to pass the 30k mark this year), 193 TD’s, and has a completion percentage of 63.5. He is 49th all-time in total games won by starting quarterbacks, and with only six active QB’s ahead of him, he is sure to keep climbing those ranks. Not many people would question his leadership. For all intents and purposes, Rivers has what it takes to be a leader and an effective captain. He seems to be held in high regard by both those who have played with him in the past and those who do so now. There aren’t many bad things said about the guy other than he, at times, seems like kind of a turd. Perhaps it is the market he’s in. Perhaps it’s because he is actually just a decent guy. I cannot say. What I can say is that he may be the individual to have benefited most from the so-called “new NFL”. The move to a pass-happy, QB-protecting system has allowed for players like Rivers to maintain solid stats without actually accomplishing anything extravagant. He is 3-7 in the playoffs, and a couple of those losses were embarrassing upsets. When you add it all up, you have a QB who just can’t seem to win the “big one”. This is what sets him apart from the likes of Drew Brees who has also benefited from the new-look game. Brees, though, has a ring. Tony Romo also comes to mind, but Rivers receives a fraction of the flak that Romo does. Obviously that has a lot to do with the fact that Romo plays for America’s team. The Chargers aren’t even California’s team. However, Rivers has kept his job, and is still regarded as one of the better QB’s in the league. At what point does that change? Does it ever? Should it ever?
Besides politics (any Senator) and journalism (Peter King), I cannot imagine an occupation where one can maintain their job and status for a decade or more without really accomplishing anything. Rivers has outlived coaches and GM’s while doing so. It is apparent that few view Rivers as the problem in San Diego, but shouldn’t more consider him at least part of the common denominator at this point? I know that the history of the NFL is riddled with other examples of this scenario, but Rivers provides the best active example. He also provides the best example in this new era of the game. He seems immune to the pressures of being a QB in the NFL because he is good. However, he has yet to prove that he is good enough. He may never prove that, and he may never have to.