What the Playoffs Mean to Philip Rivers

This is not about what Philip Rivers has done in the playoffs up until this point.  Although, a winning record (3-2) and a game played with a torn ACL is very impressive.  A QB rating above 92 in 3 out of those 5 games is also pretty remarkable.  However, what this post is about is what Philip Rivers might be doing in these 2009-2010 playoffs.  He might be making "the leap".

I know what you're saying....with two consecutive regular seasons with a QB rating above 104, Rivers has already made the leap!  Well, yes and no.  Talent-wise, he's made the leap and belongs in the conversation with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as some of the best Quarterbacks to ever play the game.  However, San Diego is not New York City.  If you want the world to know you, and you want to be in that conversation as a QB that's so good even non-football-watchers know who you are and how good you are, you need to bring your best to the big stage.

History

Unfortunately, Philip Rivers' playoff history says that he's inconsistent.  In consecutive seasons, in playoff games against a very similar Colts team, he posted QB ratings of 133.2 and 61.9.  He had a great game, with a rating of 105.4, against the Steelers in last year's playoff and that ended up being a loss.  However, in terms of consistency 2009 has been Rivers' best season.  He's yet to have a game where his QB rating ended up being less than 84.

Leadership

The more I think of it, the more I think Philip Rivers should've had a chance against Peyton Manning for the MVP Award.  Look at the stats.  Behind a worse offensive line, Rivers put up a better QB rating, a heck of a lot more 40+ yards passing plays, a better TD/INT ratio and more of his passes (42.8%) went for first down.  All of that was also done without any real running game to support him.

The stats don't lie.  Philip had a better year than Peyton, and did it with a worse team/situation around him.  Going deeper into the situation, you have to go back to Week 6 and remember how close Norv was to losing this locker room and having the team turn on him.  He deserves a ton of credit for turning it around, but the main formula for that turnaround has been to let Philip lose and then watch as Rivers gives all the credit to Turner after-the-fact.  Not only was Philip a leader in the locker room, his leadership as the biggest part of the organization (and throwing his weight behind Norv) was a huge reason this team believed in their coach.

Awards/Perception

So why is Rivers seen as the obvious choice behind Peyton?  Because Peyton would've led the Colts to a 16-0 record?  Prove it.  Because the Colts fell apart when the starters were pulled?  Peyton wasn't exactly the only guy pulled, and why should Philip be punished because the Chargers have better depth than the Colts?

It's my belief that Philip not even getting considered for the MVP (a distant second doesn't count as consideration), and Norv probably not winning the Coach of the Year, has everything to do with perception.  Everyone looks at that 2-3 start and say to themselves "That's why Norv is a bad coach" or even "That wouldn't happen with Peyton Manning."  They're wrong.

Last season Peyton got the MVP because he wasn't just the best QB (it was Rivers then too), but because he took a team that was 3-4 and became the leader of the organization as he willed them to win the next 9 games to make the playoffs.  If you remember how much fawning there was for Manning for doing that, you're also a little surprised that Rivers....and I know he's been given some credit.....isn't getting nearly as much.  Peyton was the unquestionable MVP for turning his team around, but this season it seems he's the unquestionable MVP because he played a great season and is the most recognizable face in the league.

Power of Playoffs

The power of the playoffs is that the whole world is watching.  That used to be true on Sunday and Monday Night Football games, but with the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package you no longer have to watch those games to get a bead on how good the other teams around the league are.  That's a big reason why their ratings are down.  Now, the only time that you can guarantee that every living, breathing NFL fan is watching your game is by playing in (and getting deep in) the playoffs.

The reason everybody now knows who Darren Sproles is is simple.  In probably the most watched non-Super Bowl game of the postseason, he was the best and most valuable player on the field (that wasn't a punter).  Philip Rivers' two best postseason games were against the Colts in 2008 (when his thunder was stolen by an injury and Billy Volek) and against the Steelers in 2009 (when the lack of defense and running game lost the game and made it meaningless)  Now, those games convinced a few people that Rivers was one of the best QBs in the league, but not everyone was convinced and not everybody remembers without a defining moment or victory.

 

Conclusion

This is Philip's big chance.  Being the obvious 2nd choice for MVP has it benefits, and one of them is that people start to say "Maybe he does belong in the conversation with Manning and Brady after all."  The maybe is the key.  People are watching, because they're going to want to know who is the next great QB that could possibly lead the next great dynasty.  One statement game, or defining moment (like the game-winning drives against the Cowboys and Giants this season), in the playoffs could be all it takes to turn that "maybe" into a "definitely".  And once he's in the conversation, then the debate can become "Is he better than Brady and Manning?"  However, without a statement game or defining moment he'll continue to be on the outside looking in....and in the process miss out on the awards and accolades that I think he deserves.

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