Time for an old-school overreactive rant.
I know, I know, I've only seen one practice by the 2013 San Diego Chargers. I know that the coach is new and the offense is new and things will get better. I'm not saying it won't get better. I'm saying that Rivers isn't quite where I expected him to be and still doesn't look anything like an elite QB.
I've noticed that, despite being the most important player on the team and facing the most crucial season of his career, there hasn't been a lot of talk about Philip Rivers in the last week by the local or national media. My assumption was that this is because Rivers hasn't been overly impressive, and that seemed to ring true in yesterday's practice at Qualcomm Stadium.
The offense looks fantastic. It looks creative and versatile and "modern", none of which could be said about the 2012 Chargers offense. Even if he doesn't get any better, Rivers should be able to put up okay numbers just based off the offense alone. However, El Capitan may be part of the group of players that will eventually be cast off by the front office because he was a fit for the old offense and not the new one.
What I saw was a Quarterback that didn't trust his receivers and didn't look comfortable in the pocket. He held on to the ball for way too long on just about every play, and you could see him eye-balling pass-rushers in the middle of his drop-back instead of trusting the line (or, at least, trusting the fact that it's practice and those guys aren't allowed to hit him).
He threw two deep passes, both of them were ducks that were easily swatted away by defensive backs. I know that's a small sample size, but for a guy that has been throwing more wobbly passes than any other QB in the league over the last two years....it's notable.
I didn't watch much of Philip in college, but it appears that he played in more of a "Pro" offense than in a spread offense. That would make this offseason his first experience with a spread passing offense, and his first time playing in a system that relies more on quick decisions than strong, accurate throws. It's entirely possible that he won't adapt, or is simply a poor fit, to such an offense.
Before the attacks come in the comments, let me restate my position here. I'm not predicting failure for Philip Rivers. I am not saying that the offense is a finished product. I'm simply stating that, at this point, the Chargers QB does not appear to have "turned it around" and still seems somewhat overwhelmed by an offense that he's had six months to study.
I sincerely hope that more practice speeds up his decision-making and the offense turns out exactly as Ken Whisenhunt and Mike McCoy envision it to be, but I'll be keeping a closer eye on everything Rivers does over the next few months than I would normally. If he ends up being ill-suited for the spread, which still seems like a genuine possibility, I wouldn't be surprised to see him released next offseason (saving San Diego $13.8 million in cap space) and signing on to be the QB of Norv Turner's offense with the Cleveland Browns.
I discussed this with BFTB staff members Jerome and Richard after yesterday's practice, and we all shared a similar viewpoint: Rivers is probably the best game manager in the league. He might be the best game manager in the history of the league. However, he still appears to be a guy that needs a good running game and good defense to win games for him. He's not a guy to build your entire franchise around (at least not talent-wise, you could make an argument that you can build around his leadership), but rather a complimentary piece. Like a younger version of Matt Hasselbeck.
The upcoming preseason, and regular season, will be incredibly interesting to watch for fans of the Chargers and Philip Rivers. I expected, at this point, glowing reviews about his quick-learning and adjusting his game to fit the offense. Those stories haven't come yet, but they still can. Here's to hoping.