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The G-L Review: Why Does the Media Hate Philip Rivers?

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Yeah, I’m a biased homer. But for some unknown reason, the media sure seems to rag on the Chargers’ franchise star. Plus, lots more to chew on in this Bye Week special.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The media always gets the final word on how its subject gets presented. It tells a story, and those stories undoubtedly will hold inherent partiality.

Take Rupert Murdoch, for example, and his News Corp juggernaut. The Australian tycoon created Fox News in 1996 as a response to the ‘liberal bias’ he deemed to be rampant throughout the news. Nowadays, we can’t even say “Fox News” without immediately associating the channel with conservative ideals.

Now, in writing, there’s a little thing known as ethos. You probably learned about it sometime in high school English class, but in case you forgot, ethos is an attempt by a writer to appeal to the reader’s set of ethical values.

So basically, I’m going to try and convince you of my credibility as a writer with this truly introspective statement: I’m a humongous Philip Rivers homer. The first Chargers jersey I ever got was a navy blue #17 in a size Youth Large. I wore that thing ragged, to the point where the stickered numbers had vaporized into the ether.

Yes, I love the swash-buckling gunslinger from San Diego via Decatur. And as a prominent member of the Rivers fan club, it sure is difficult to see tweets like this:

Okay, so, like, if you’re a neutral sports fan, I’m sure you found that tweet incredibly funny. As a self-proclaimed graphic designer who dabbles in photography, I appreciate the perfectly-executed use of Photoshop presented here.

Coming off another emotional loss, however, to top off what’s been a rollercoaster ride of a season, that was tough to see. Not only that, every single article recapping the Week 10 tilt was titled something along the lines of “Philip Rivers Throws Away the Game as Dolphins beat Chargers”.

Now, if you’ve read this far and want to shrug off my article for this week, go for it. I get that people think there are too many “Rivers apologists out there”, and this sure falls on the other end of the hot-take spectrum compared to Louis’ very well-written article from Sunday.

This take is, admittedly, incredibly hot. Boiling even. But it’s something I’ve wanted to talk about since before this season began, as I’ve noticed what I deem to be a false narrative in the media’s portrayal of our QB. With that being said, here are the three ways--in order of ascending intensity--in which the media presents Philip Rivers.

1. “Philip Rivers is a hard-luck loser.”

I’d never heard the term “hard-luck loser” before watching this clip from ESPN’s First Take.

It stuck with me, though, even after I watched Skip and Stephen A. collectively empty their lungs.

The segment appeared right after the Monday night game against Jay Cutler and the Bears in 2015. With another stellar performance by Rivers and another blown game by the Chargers, the two hosts debated on where to rank Rivers when it came to his legacy as a quarterback in the league.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Skip was the one who uttered the aforementioned phrase, as he staked his claim on Rivers as a guy who just seemed to be a gutsy overachiever. He just always seems to get unlucky, Skip stated. Like every pundit, he compared Phil to Eli Manning, and stated how Eli does indeed have two rings (more on that later). Skip said that Rivers needs a deep run in the playoffs; otherwise, he’ll end his career as a top statistical QB, and nothing more.

Stephen A. went a different route. He blasted the Chargers organization as a whole for questionable decisions, such as the firing of Schottenheimer in 2007. It ain’t him, Stephen A. decided. He’s a part of it, but he ain’t the reason. That’s the sad part about it. He’s wasting away

As a Chargers fan, at first glance, I wholeheartedly agree with the talking heads’ sentiment. It feels good to acknowledge the many things that have gone awry in Rivers’ career, kind of in a told-you-so fashion.

Nevertheless, in truth, this is a guy we’re talking about who’s the best quarterback in franchise history. He has all the talent in the world, and he’s breaking records from the Air Coryell franchise with plenty of gas left in the tank.

Philip Rivers does not need a pity party. He may not be a surefire bet for the Hall, but he’s clearly had an all-time career in his own right.

And this is the Philip Rivers that many fans don’t acknowledge. How could they? To them, Rivers is the guy who appears on Top Ten lists every offseason as the “trendy” fringe pick.

I mean, when I see or hear Rivers’ name mentioned on TV or online, I’m legitimately surprised. Most analysts are too. That’s why they precede his name with stating, “You know who we always tend to forget about?”.

Philip Rivers is a hard-luck loser, a guy dwindling away in a small market, a guy that deserves your unbridled sympathy.

2. “Philip Rivers is the third-best quarterback from the 2004 NFL Draft.”

This one’s super-duper easy, right? I mean, count the hardware. Eli and Ben both got two, and Phil not only lacks a ring, he does not even have a Super Bowl appearance.

Now, before you go down to the comment section and write an unsavory retort along the lines of “You’d have to be stupid to think that Rivers is better than those 2!”, I am not outright stating that Rivers is clearly the best of the trio. Far from it.

The way QBs are put in the spotlight, though, as the epitome of a franchise, the one deciding factor between winning the chip and going home empty-handed, is outrageous. You would think that a quarterback with three Super Bowl wins could take on another team 22-to-1 and still be home in time for supper.

Even crazier, you could think that Joe Flacco is on the same planet as Drew Brees, with Trent Dilfer mixing drinks in the back.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I get it though. It makes sense. Sifting through 53-man rosters (along with a 10-man practice squad and an IR) is tedious, especially when it comes to the 300-pound dudes whose job description involves pushing people around, and not much else. No one wants to talk about the big boys either protecting a quarterback or protecting a quarterback’s lead because, let’s face it, in a league whose sole purpose is to manufacture glamor, where’s the glamor in being a lineman in the NFL?

I do not want to give you my case for Rivers here because it consists of an in-depth analysis of every single season of his career and we’d be stuck here for hours. One day, I’ll put that into words, and publish that here.

However, for now, I’d like to quickly cite this article from Grantland, written a couple years back by Robert Mays, now a leading contributor for Bill Simmons’ The Ringer. In it, Mays discusses Rivers’ many elite seasons we tend to forget about, where advanced metrics place him right up there with Peyton and Brees. The article may be a little outdated, given we’ve had two-and-a-half seasons of merely above-average play from Phil since. Nonetheless, even if you do not agree with the piece’s thinking, I think it makes for a good read.

In conclusion, to completely remove Rivers from the conversation solely based on rings is purely disingenuous. Yet most fans do not want to talk about Roethlisberger’s mediocre numbers B.A.B. (before Antonio Brown) or Eli’s habit of consistently dragging the Giants down, much less the dominant defenses that both franchises trotted out during their respective Super Bowl runs.

The only thing that matters for quarterbacks is the amount of Super Bowls. And since Rivers does not have a Lombardi to his name, he is clearly the third-best quarterback from the 2004 NFL Draft.

3. “Philip Rivers is a crybaby, a choke artist, and anything but a winner.”

This is the one that really irks me, and it sure does not help that my English teacher loves to stoke the fire.

As a Pats fan, he loves to poke fun. Seriously, what chance of a comeback do I have? “You guys...ya know...you guys deflate balls! Yeah!”.

But whether Phil throws four touchdowns or four interceptions, my teacher’s response the next day is always the same: “I just love it when I turn on the TV, and all I see is Rivers yelling at some poor ref or receiver who ran the wrong route.”

Yeah, anyone who watches the Chargers play for the last ten years has seen this before. Yet, for some reason, announcers and pundits alike love to push the hateable narrative onto Rives.

To the uninitiated fan, Rivers is the guy running around, screaming, talking trash. He complains to the refs. And the cameras always seem to be waiting for an eruption, because we promptly get videos like this.

On NFL.com, that shot of Rivers yelling at Gates falls under the category of “Big Play Highlights”. When it happened almost a year ago, U-T writer Jay Posner summed it up best with this one tweet:

Here’s another clip from a Bolts game that NFL.com decided was worth publishing.

And, to come full circle, you don’t even have to watch this YouTube clip. Just read the title.

It’s a “highlight video” of Rivers’ Week 10 performance, titled “Philip Rivers Throws 4 Picks in Loss to Dolphins”.

I’m sorry if all these assorted references discombobulated you as you tried to stick with me. And if you’re really confused as to what my point is, ask yourself this question: what other quarterback do you ever see painted in such a negative light?

Okay, maybe Jay Cutler, but he seems to have brought some of that hate onto himself.

Online comment sections are brutal places for everyone. I got into a long, drawn-out, and ultimately pointless argument with a Fins fan on YouTube, and I made sure to skedaddle when the level of stupidity hit rock bottom. KeeperOfProphecies can attest to this, as I’m pretty sure I saw his name shuffled in there too.

People legitimately seem to hate Philip Rivers. I mean, if you go ever go onto Mile High Report and look at fans’ comments about #17, you would think he’s the second coming of Keyser Söze.

And sure, that’s a blog from a divisional rival. But all you have to do is listen to the ways announcers talk about Rivers, especially when it comes to those sideline debacles. I distinctly remember that during the Raiders game, Rivers was pictured twice yelling at teammates, first Tyrell Williams and then D.J. Fluker. Both times, the announcers chuckled on air as the QB gave the youngsters an earful.

When, you may ask, did the announcers come back on-air and remark on how Williams and Fluker responded with superb play for the rest of the game?

If Rivers was truly a cry-baby who did nothing but yell at his teammates, I think more of his teammates would come out and spew some hatred à la Martellus Bennett instead of naming him a team captain.

Local media tend to be the ones who use refrains such as “plays his heart out”, “wears his emotions on his sleeve”, and “just loves the game of football”. When I think of Philip Rivers, I think of this guy:

Sure, he talks smack, albeit without swearing. Yeah, he has eight kids. No, he has not won a Superb Owl.

However, nothing encapsulates the real Rivers better than the most memorable quote from the previously cited postgame interview. When asked if he feels misunderstood sometimes, Rivers responded, “Yeah, uh, I do, I would’ve hoped after ten years that people would’ve figured it out. I just like playing football!”

To hell with Cry Me a Rivers. Philip Rivers is the most passionate player in the entire league.

More Thoughts on Last Week’s Game (Dolphins) and the Bye Week

NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
  • As I’ve stated multiple times, I love me some Philip Rivers. I’m not going to try and deny that I’m naturally defensive when it comes to #17. So listen to me when I humbly say that pinning this loss on Rivers is truly a knee-jerk reaction. Yes, he played terribly down the stretch. I was nothing short of aghast when Kiko Alonso rumbled his way to paydirt. However, even if you grumbling fans out there are sick of hearing how Rivers is the only reason the Chargers compete in any games whatsoever, it’s...well, it’s true. His first, second, and third receiving options? Not playing. And as great as it has been to see Tyrell Williams progress, he clearly is still a little raw, and he does not separate on a consistent basis. That’s overlooking the fact that he played hampered by an injury that’s been bugging him for a couple weeks now. We all know the rest—Gates has lost a step, Dontrelle Inman should not have even made this team back in September, and whoever rounds out the receiver depth chart was probably crashed on the couch, binge-watching Game of Thrones just two weeks ago. Yes, it’s been beaten to death, but we’re spoiled in forgetting how Phil makes the most out of nothing week in and week out. His standard is so high that when he gets dominated by a stout D-Line all day long, we forget that the Chargers had no business in that game anyway.
  • When I call it a knee-jerk reaction to blame it all on Rivers, that’s also a product of me not watching this game live. I watched it two days later, a time slot in which cooler heads always prevail. Watching the games later without the intensity of a game-day vibe really lends the viewer a different perspective on a game.
  • The two most important things garnered from this game, though, are both obvious. The coaching needs to go, and the offensive line needs to be blown up. Again, we saw McCoy burn timeouts and completely botch the play-calling when it came to crunch time. Yeah, the game-sealing pick by Phil was horrible, but my question is, how the hell did the Chargers bum it that hard after using up a timeout? If you recall, it was first down, and the Bolts needed just ten yards to get into field goal range. Rivers got the call in late, didn’t like what he saw, and called timeout. You would think that McCoy and Whisenhunt plan some all-out, diabolical, genius play, right? Until they get duped by a disguised defense, and Kiko Alonso brings it back to the house for the game-winning score. Was this on Rivers, or the coaches, or both? I guess we’ll never know, though I’d probably lean towards Rivers.
  • Oh, yeah, the offensive line. This is my weekly plea to Telesco to draft almost exclusively OL. Want an interesting tidbit you probably did not think about? Last year, Andy Dalton enjoyed the best year of his career. This year, he’s been mediocre, even subpar. Sure, he lost two good receivers in Sanu and Jones, but the real difference is his offensive line. The Bungles decided not to keep their Top Five offensive line from last year intact, and this season, they’re feeling the consequences. A dominant and young offensive line will make Phil and Gordon look so good. Cut, restructure—whatever you do, just inject loads of talent into this group, TT, and let ‘em fight it out for jobs.
NFL: Miami Dolphins at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
  • I’ve always thought the hate for Tannehill was unjustified. It sure seems like quarterback guru Adam Gase has unlocked something from the oft-maligned QB. The Dolphins’ #17 isn’t putting up big numbers, but he certainly is helping steer this Dolphins squad on its way to a potential playoff berth. I am a Florida sports fan (born in Palm Beach), so I am pulling for the Fins. It’s been hard in recent years, with San Diego and Miami clashing quite frequently, but I wish good luck upon the squad as they try to make some noise in the AFC.
  • I don’t think you need me to say this, but if you haven’t already, give up on the division. No, I still do not think the Raiders are all that. Another week, another unconvincing win against a mediocre squad. That Texans squad is gonna be pissed off come Sunday, fresh off a disappointing loss south of the border and working on a short week. Let’s hope McCoy had a great week of practice.
  • The Broncos collectively licked their wounds this week as well. The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Donkeys, as they look to make a final sprint to the playoff race. Meanwhile, the Chiefs fell to a Tampa squad that seems to be doing its best Jeff Fisher impersonation. That is, Jameis “Crab Legs” Winston and his team win all the games they should lose and lose all the games they should win. That bodes well for the Bolts’ home showdown come December 4.
  • This bye week was a win in itself, as since Week 9, no one has been added to IR!
  • Oh, wait...
  • Smh.

A Look Forward to Next Week’s Game and the Rest of the Season

  • Are the playoffs out of reach? More or less. A miracle 9-7 run like we experience in 2013 probably won’t cut it this year. Hell, 10-6 might not garner a playoff spot. For McCoy and Co. to bumble their way to ten wins? Count me out. I don’t see it.
  • There’s still a lot of football to be played, however. I learned last year that even if you just want the season to end because you’re #DownWithTheTank, the offseason is a cold and dreary place. There’s always next year, but ya gotta enjoy the seventeen-week season while we’re in the midst of it. Yes, I want a good draft pick, but I think we can beat the Panthers, Bucs, Browns, and maybe even play spoiler to the Chiefs and Raiders.
  • I do want McCoy and Pagano gone though...hmmm...decisions, decisions.
  • On top of that, I want the Spanos family gone. But to quote the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want.
  • Seeing how successful Bosa has been makes me want to draft Jabrill Peppers. During the scrutinization period known as “Mock Draft Season”, prospects are now picked apart for every single step they take. I don’t care if my guy is a tweener or what-have-you; in the end, I want a good football player, and that’s exactly what Jabrill is. He changes the entire landscape of a defense. I have no idea where he will go in the draft, but if we’re picking the teens, we gotta hold out hope he drops down boards due to his lack of picks.
NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
  • Also, I have no idea who our Defensive Coordinator will be next year, but I’m thinking we should definitely switch the base to a 4-3. Sure, Pagano currently employs all sorts of crazy formations, but I truly believe the old cliché that you tailor your defense to the personnel you have. Between Emmanuel, Attaochu, Jatavis, Denzel, and Toomer, you would have to think that the linebacking corps would be stacked. Assuming we resign Ingram, we could line up Supa Mel, Liuget, Mebane, and Bosa on the D-Line, playing all four in their natural positions. You would definitely have to invest more in the D-Line depth, though I do currently like Palepoi and Reid as backups.
  • Restructuring Liuget is a must. There’s no way around it. The man is just not as talented as his contract entails. I like him, I think he’s dedicated, but he was paid to be healthy and dominant and he clearly has not lived up to either of those two expectations.
  • We do need two at least average starting NFL safeties. Phillips, McCoil, Stuckey, Addae, and Lowery are not the answer. I don’t care who has played and who hasn’t, this was not addressed last offseason when it desperately needed to be. A good veteran and a solid mid-round pick in the draft would be ideal, or if TT were to draft Peppers, have him perform spot duty at the position.
  • My preferred draft: 3 OL, 2 DL, 1-2 S, OLB (potentially more if we don’t resign Ingram).
  • Picture this team with Jason Garrett, the most mediocre coach in the sport. This team, with health and a couple of moves, can contend next year. I’m 100% serious about that. Because, per usual, there’s always next year.

Some Final Thoughts On Life, the Universe, and Everything

  • I’ll keep this short and sweet, as I’m at almost 3.5k words by now.

  • For all my fellow sneakerheads out there, I’m in a real pickle. So, the 2016 Space Jams are coming out soon, and I haven’t decided whether I like ‘em with the Concord Jumpman or not, along with the icy blue outsole. and the 45. Retail is $220, and with tax, that comes out to about $235, a scarily large number. Is getting a pair of gently used ‘09 Jams worth it? I like the Royal Blue so much more, and I’ve found pairs just north of $200. That’s assuming I have enough money to warrant purchasing either, of course.
  • Those True Blue 3s are tempting, too...