Philip Rivers, otherwise known as El Capitan, is starting to hit the apex of a very interesting career. While establishing himself as one of the 5 best QBs in the league, he has also managed to stay under the radar (somewhat) and managed to earn duel reputations as a classy/quiet leader (in San Diego) and a cancerous cry-baby (outside of San Diego). How the heck does that happen? He's like a mix of Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Jim McMahon.
Broncos fans, in particular, are hilarious to listen to when discussing El Capitan's reputation. Part of this is because Denver and San Diego's fanbases might be the most intertwined of any other AFC West rivals. It's the matchup of two cities that aren't big hustle/bustle cities, both of vacation spots, and both are made up mostly of upper middle-class populations. It's not like San Diego/Oakland, where people from SD are generally terrified to just stop for gas in Oakland. And it's not like San Diego/Kansas City, where people from SD have never found a reason to visit the midwestern city except for maybe stopping for ribs on their way through.
To know how Bronco fans feel about Philip Rivers, you have to go through their history with him. It can be broken down into three eras:
Jay Cutler Era: Man, did Broncos fans hate Philip during the Jay Cutler era. Why? Well, they loved their "franchise QB" and didn't take too kindly when Rivers made him look bad and then openly mocked him on the field. Here's a blurry reminder:
It looked as though the Rivers/Cutler rivalry would go on for ages, and that Broncos fans would never stop hating Philip Rivers with a fiery passion. Philip Rivers seemed to think of Cutler as a whiny baby, and Cutler seemed to think of Rivers as a classless jerk. It raised the stakes of their games against each other, and of the rivalry between fanbases. Then something happened....
Post-Jay Cutler Era: Broncos fans turned on Jay Cutler during the 2009 offseason. He had whined and fought with Josh McDaniels until he was traded out of town to the Bears. Suddenly, Broncos fans were siding with Rivers. "He was right about Cutler", I heard from the mouths of Broncos fans. No longer were there harsh words about him being classless, or picking fights with defenseless little QBs.
Suddenly, fawning began! Broncos fans starting talking about what a great QB Rivers was, rivalry be damned! "Wish he was playing in Denver", I heard more than once. Sure, we still wanted to beat each other, but no longer was this thing personal. The biggest/loudest argument became about Ed Hochuli, not Philip Rivers. It would be smooth sailing from here on out.
A Return to Hatred....kind of: It seems as though things have returned to the way they once were. Broncos fans are maybe willing to admit that Rivers is one of the best QBs in the league, but not before saying that Kyle Orton has been every bit as good as him. Also, they're back to calling him a cry-baby and imagining him being the cancer that's kept the Chargers from winning the Super Bowl. This frustrated me, and I was about to chalk it up to "Well, time has passed....and it's a rivalry after all." Then I realized the real reason for the vitriol....
Philip Rivers vs Denver Broncos: 9 games (6-3), 110.5 QB Rating
67.1% Completion, 2,078 passing yards, 14 passing TDs, 4 INTs, 1 rush TD
Ouch, I think I'd be eager to make the guy look bad if he was doing that to my team twice a year.
Anyways, it would appear that the history of this rivalry went from Rivers vs. Cutler/Broncos to Rivers/Broncos vs. Cutler and now it's a very clean Rivers vs. Broncos, or even Chargers vs. Broncos if you want. That's probably the way it should be, and bring El Capitan one step closer to being recognized for what he is (a great QB and leader) rather than what he isn't.