Early indications out of Chargers Park are that Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt plan to install an offensive scheme that will allow Philip Rivers shorter and more conservative throws than the ones he grew accustomed to over the past six years.
So why could such a scheme be exactly what Rivers needs?
Despite his reputation as an elite downfield passer, Rivers was downright horrible on passes thrown 20 yards or more last season. He completed just 36 percent and posted a dismal 65.4 quarterback rating compared to his 39 percent and 92.8 marks since 2008 on such passes. In comparison, he completed 76 percent and posted a prolific 101.9 quarterback rating last year on passes thrown 19 yards or less, which are two numbers right in line with his career averages on such passes.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why Rivers experienced such a dramatic swing in his numbers between the deep throws and the short and intermediate variety. The longer throws, which were a staple of the Norv Turner offense, naturally took longer to develop, which meant that defenders had longer to get to Rivers and disrupt him in the pocket. With the offensive line in San Diego ranking as one of the worst in the league last season, that all turned into a recipe for disaster.
On the 265 plays that Rivers held the ball for 2.5 seconds or less, he had the highest completion percentage of all starting quarterbacks at 76.1 percent and the third highest quarterback rating of 109.6. And most importantly, he was only sacked four times on such plays. In contrast, on the 320 plays Rivers held the ball for 2.6 seconds or more, his completion percentage shrunk to 54.7, his quarterback rating took a nosedive to 68.8 and the number of sacks multiplied eleven times to 44.
And just to add some perspective, no other starting quarterback suffered a greater drop in his quarterback rating than Rivers did when he held the ball for longer than 2.5 seconds. Only Tom Brady (-25.4) suffered a greater drop in his completion percentage and only Aaron Rodgers (+42) suffered a greater increase in his sacks than Rivers, though both Brady (82.3) and Rodgers (99.8) still managed to have pretty good quarterback ratings on such plays. Maybe because they only had to deal with pressure on 25 percent (Brady) and 29.9 percent (Rodgers) of their drop backs while Rivers had to deal with it a painful 38.2 percent of the time.
With these numbers staring the new regime in the face and the offensive line in San Diego probably not being dramatically better than last year, the goal should be a simple one: get the ball out of Rivers' hand as quickly as possible. A greater frequency of shorter throws is certainly one step towards achieving that end.
I don't expect it'll be the prettiest or the sexiest offense in the league, but if it gets Philip Rivers back to being Philip Rivers again, it'll be pretty darn good.