San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was part of a heralded 2004 QB draft class that was to rival one of the greatest in NFL history. While his contemporaries have held up their end of the bargain, Rivers struggles to keep up and appears to be on the wrong side of the peak. As he enters his 10th season, several national pundits and even some Chargers are questioning if he has anything left.
“With the 4 Pick in the 2004 NFL Draft to New York Giants select, Philip Rivers, quarterback, North Carolina State.” With those words, commissioner Paul Tagliabue welcomed Philip Rivers to the National Football League on April 24th, 2004. Later that day Rivers was traded from the Giants to the San Diego Chargers for Eli Manning. Manning had no desire to play for the Chargers – since they already had a quarterback in Drew Brees – and orchestrated a trade to the “Big Apple.” Rivers was the second quarterback selected in the draft. Ahead of Miami of Ohio’s Ben Roethlisberger and Virginia’s Matt Scaub. Both have gone on to have successful pro bowl careers. Several “draft experts” predicted the 2004 class of quarterbacks would be on par with the class of 1983, that featured Hall Of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino to name a few.
When Rivers arrived in San Diego, he was immediately involved in a QB battle with Brees that ended with him only seeing limited action in 2 games in each of his first two seasons. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger struck right away winning 14 straight games before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Manning was brought along slower as he watched Super Bowl Champion and 2 Time league MVP Kurt Warner, but he still manage to start 7 of 9 games his rookie season before taking over the reins in year two. Rivers waited behind Drew Brees, who at the time wasn’t the same Brees we are witnessing in New Orleans.
Over the past 9 seasons, Manning and Roethlisberger have reached Hall Of Fame status. Between them, they have 5 Super Bowl Appearances, 4 Super Bowl titles, 2 Superbowl MVPs – both Manning’s. Even Schaub—a late bloomer—is quarterbacking a Houston Texans team that is a favorite by many (author raises hand) to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl after the 2013 season.
While Rivers has had his share of individual success with 27,891 Yards passing, 189 TDS, 4 Pro bowls and 4 Trips to the playoffs (3-4 record), he’s yet to sniff the Super Bowl and in the past two season has failed to get his San Diego Chargers off to hot starts, while piling up 59 turnovers (Interceptions & Fumbles combined) in the ’11 & ’12 seasons; and it doesn’t look like his luck is going to get better any time soon. If it weren’t for Tony Romo and he played in a bigger media market than San Diego, he’d probably be verbally attacked in the national media more than any other QB, but he’s been able to flounder under the radar.
But what happened? Has he hit his peak? Charger fans have to wonder, “did management make the right decision when forcing Drew Brees out for Rivers?” There was a time when Rivers was by far the best QB in the AFC West, and the Chargers were consistently the favorite to win the division and did so, even after starting several seasons of under achieving. Now the new sheriff in the AFC West is Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are not only the clear cut choice to win the division, but many suspect the Chargers will fall behind the Kansas City Chiefs and the tandem of Head Coach Andy Reid and his new QB Alex Smith. The window is closing quickly on Rivers, if it hasn’t already.
His career reminds me of former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar. Kosar’s Browns in the late 80s were always a play here or there from going to the Super Bowl. Rivers’ Chargers were always an injury away from playing in the Super Bowl. Kosar and Rivers even have the same side arm throwing motion and were hand picked by Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer. Kosar’s career ended unceremoniously in Cleveland after Schottenheimer was moved on. Schottenheimer stood by Kosar like he did Rivers and then Norv Turner after him. As more time goes on, you have to wonder if the new management and coaching staff will eventually decide to move on from Rivers.
Kosar’s career was never the same – Although he did earn a Super Bowl Ring with the Cowboys as Troy Aikman’s backup – and you have to wonder if Rivers’ will follow a similar path. He’s only 31 years old, so you’d like to think there’s still a chance he can have some success similar to his ’04 QB classmates. This season will go along way in him getting things back on the right track. He needs a big season, even if the Chargers as a team don’t, he needs to prove he still deserves to be in discussions about Top QBs. He’s rarely mentioned anymore and it leaves one to wonder, what happened?
**Check out this faux Philip Rivers Amazon page from Grantland.com. Seems the agree with me**