El Capitan just struck the biggest blow for keeping the Chargers in San Diego.
Kevin Acee of the UT San Diego published a rather remarkable article yesterday, regarding Philip Rivers and his current lack of interest in signing a long-term extension with the Chargers. First, consider the quote provided by General Manager Tom Telesco, following the end of the 2014 Regular Season:
"We are committed to making sure Philip retires as a Charger, and we will address that at the appropriate time." - Tom Telesco on 12/31/14.
It seems to me the Chargers were very clear about wanting Rivers to stick around. However, this is what Rivers said in the Acee article yesterday:
"What I can control and all I know as of today, I am signed up for one more year...I guess things could change, but with all the uncertainty in many aspects, I don't see (his decision not to sign an extension) changing before camp gets here, and when camp gets here I'm even more certain to play it out." - Philip Rivers 3/17/15.
That quote was followed by this quote:
"What we've established (in San Diego) with my growing family is hard to re-create. It's hard to up and re-create that. I know that moves are part of life. But that certainty is fair to say that (not being sold on moving to Los Angeles) is part of it. The good thing is I'm not under contract in a year where we'd potentially be in Los Angeles." - Philip Rivers 3/17/15.
Quotes like these coming from Rivers is unprecedented.
Rivers is very much a team-first guy. He doesn't like to embarrass the organization, he doesn't like to create controversy, and he doesn't exert leverage like this publicly.
Which means, as of right now, Rivers does not want to play for the Los Angeles Chargers. Period.
So, where does this leave the Chargers?
In a bad spot, honestly. Here are the reasons why.
- The Chargers do not currently have an heir apparent on the roster, which means if they can't persuade Rivers to stay past 2015, they'll need to find a new starting QB.
- There are currently no Free Agent QBs worth pursuing.
- The 2014 draft class has one advanced talent at QB (Florida State's Jameis Winston), one high-risk, high-reward talent at QB (Oregon's Marcus Mariota), and then a lot of question marks.
- The Chargers are drafting at 17 in the 1st Round, and both Winston and Mariota will likely be off the board by that time.
- Rivers declaring openly that he doesn't want to play in Los Angeles lowers his potential trade value.
- Because of his pending Free Agency in 2016, Rivers has what amounts to a no-trade clause (i.e. no team will give up big assets for Rivers without some assurance he'll sign an extension).
- The Chargers will have a much harder time selling a stadium to the public in San Diego if Rivers is off-loaded as part of a Los Angeles contingency plan.
- The Chargers, already the least popular of the 3 potential Los Angeles possibilities, will be an even harder sell in Los Angeles if they go from a 8-10 win playoff contender to a 3-6 win rebuilding team.
If nothing else, Rivers' lack of interest in Los Angeles is clearly the reason the Chargers have scheduled a private workout with Mariota in the next few weeks. They haven't scheduled anything with Winston as of yet, either because they know they can't draft him (i.e. Tampa Bay has already made it clear they're taking him 1st, or the Chargers are scared off by Winston's off-field issues).
Also, I'd like to think Chargers Owner Dean Spanos would have made sure the most important asset of his franchise was on-board with going to Los Angeles BEFORE he made his play for Los Angeles, because the team could have moved Rivers earlier (i.e. before he went public) and retained maximum leverage.
Consider the following possibilities:
If everything goes well in San Diego, the Chargers stay put and Rivers is either signed to an extension through 2020, or is Franchise Tagged in 2016.
On the other hand, here's Spanos' worst nightmare: The Chargers aren't able to draft Winston or Mariota, San Diego's citizens give Spanos the middle finger over Rivers' departure following the 2015 season, and then Kroenke wins the race to Los Angeles.
Dean Spanos is between a rock and a hard place with the stadium business, and the effects have finally hit the football operations side of the franchise.
Telesco has to secure the future of the franchise, which means he has to put Rivers on the trade block and see what he can get for him before the draft.
If the Chargers move Rivers for either Winston or Mariota (or less), the Chargers will face a fan revolt in San Diego, just as the Citizens' Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG) is about to release a financing plan. As bad as that is, imagine if the Chargers can't land Winston or Mariota, Rivers leaves San Diego in 2016 over the uncertainty with Los Angeles, and the Rams get to Los Angeles first, killing all of Spanos' leverage and what little goodwill is left in San Diego disappears.
Philip Rivers just made the first real power play of his San Diego career, and whether he intended it or not, it was a play to keep the franchise in San Diego.