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What's Wrong With Philip Rivers?

Well, folks, that was a painful game to watch. I'm normally more inclined to be an optimist about these things, but this team sure makes it hard sometimes. I might also add that I was quite worried when I realized that the Chargers were facing the Chiefs on Monday Night Football (like the horrible season opener last year) Arrowhead (where the Bolts always suck underwhelm)...on Halloween. It looked to me like the perfect storm for a completely characteristic nationally televised collapse that has become all too familiar with those who root for the Chargers.

One thing is clear: Philip Rivers is not right. There is something off. This isn't exactly groundbreaking news here, but it is having an earth-shattering effect on this team. In past seasons, Rivers has been the glue that holds the team together when the players around him were he is the reason that this team isn't currently undefeated (that's right, I said it).  

So what gives? No one outside of the organization (as well as many of those in the organization) knows the answer, but as fans (and bloggers) it is pretty much our duty to hypothesize about the severe regression of our fearless leader, El Capitan. Hypothesizing will begin after the jump...

Philip Rivers

#17 / Quarterback / San Diego Chargers



Dec 08, 1981

North Carolina State

Passing Rushing Sacks
G Rating Comp Att Pct Yds Y/G Y/A TD INT Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Sack YdsL
2011 - Philip Rivers 7 80.7 167 259 64.5 2084 297.7 8 7 11 20 35 5 1.8 1 17 100

This idea sprung from a "digital roundtable" (read: email chain) of the BFTB writers this afternoon.  

Most of us know that there was an NFL lockout this past offseason. During this lockout, interaction between the players and coaches was forbidden, which isn't to say that it didn't occur, but it was forbidden nonetheless. The majority of teams had some players run their own sort of "player-led" workouts in which the veterans organized get-togethers of those other players who volunteered their time to work together during the offseason.

When I first heard of these player generated workouts, I was happy to hear that Philip Rivers himself was taking advantage of his leadership role and leading these workouts. Now, I don't pretend to know how many players attended these workouts regularly, but we can go ahead and assume that since Rivers was leading them, he probably attended all of them.

My second thought after hearing about these workouts pertained to what actually occurred at these workouts.  Were they predominately weight room or conditioning sessions? Or were the players running through drills?  When listening to NFL Radio during the lockout, every time a coach was interviewed about the player-led workouts, you heard the coach say a couple good things about leadership, then a lot of grumbling. Coaches do not like their players to practice unsupervised. If you have been to an open training camp session, then you know why.  

Sure you need to be strong and athletic in the NFL, but if you have bad technique, you have no chance. All these coaches are teaching every day to these players is technique, technique, technique (and maybe some playbook stuff). The goal is to get the good techniques to become second-nature to the players so that they don't even have to think about it in the game, they just do it. When players practice unsupervised, no one is there to critique their technique and teach them to do it the right way, or yell at them for doing it the wrong way. When players have a lot of unsupervised practice, they will more than likely not have perfect technique the majority of the time and develop bad habits which have become second nature and take a lot of work to reverse.

So how does this apply to Philip Rivers? Well, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure. Rivers has never been the prototypical passer in the NFL, and his throwing motion will never be mistaken for one like Aaron Rodgers'. That makes it difficult to see what Rivers is doing wrong this season because, well, he's always kind of done it wrong. My best guess is that Philip developed some sort of bad habit that is really having a detrimental effect on his accuracy, which has always been his strong point.  

Rivers has always been a gambler of sorts, and would often throw into coverage, but his accuracy would often bail him out since he put the ball in the perfect location and the only one in which his receiver could get the ball. Those passes have not been going his way this season. Additionally, he has regularly been throwing the ball too far in front of (or behind) his receiver on crossing routes, which has resulted in tipped balls and turnovers. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Rivers' interceptions this season haven't been so much attributed to uncharacteristically bad decisions (he's always made questionable, risky ones), but to uncharacteristically poor accuracy. This poor accuracy would be caused by something physically wrong, and not a mental block of sorts.

The biggest problem is that whatever habit Rivers has developed that is affecting his accuracy couldn't be fixed in the first 8 weeks, which included a bye week. This means that it may not be something that can be fixed this season, which is not good news. The irony is that by organizing these player-led workouts in an effort to get the Chargers a competitive advantage over the rest of the league, he may have done just the opposite.

Well, Charger fans, that's my take.  What do you think?


The other, much better option is that the Chargers just don't play well in white jerseys this season. Believe it or not, every single game so far this season has been played in the white jerseys.  This weekend against Green Bay should be the first game that the team will wear the traditional navy blue jerseys at home.