The San Diego Chargers host the Tennessee Titans in a crucial must-win game for the franchise. This is not just another normal game for the Chargers. There are many headlines that can be associated with Sunday’s matchup: Chargers offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, faces his old team for a chance of redemption; San Diego is fighting for their playoff lives; Coach McCoy is coaching to keep his job; San Diego attempts to win a big game days before the fate of their stadium initiative is decided, etc...There is one tagline that is being overlooked; the Chargers are facing a future star quarterback that could have been theirs two years back.
Two years ago, the San Diego Chargers were approaching a state of flux. Their franchise quarterback’s contract was about to expire. Rumors started swirling around, that Philip Rivers didn’t want to move to Los Angeles if the Chargers left San Diego. He was unhappy in the direction of where the team was going. The media was alluding to the fact that Rivers was demanding a trade from San Diego, and if the team did not grant his wish, he would have no problem retiring early to spend his time with his 8 children. This notion caught on like wildfire and started spreading rapidly after the Chargers brass showed so much interest in Oregon’s Marcus Mariota during the draft process. Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy publically stated that they were just doing their homework, but it was clear to see, the Chargers were enamored by Mariota, and were planning a contingency plan for Rivers.
But there was another side to this story. The Tennessee Titans owned the second pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. And if a team wanted to draft Mariota, they were going to have to make a deal with the Titans. Why would Tennessee, who needed a quarterback desperately themselves, trade away the chance to draft an up-and-coming quarterback, though? Then Titans head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, was desperately trying to save his job. In Whisenhunt’s first year with Tennessee, the Titans regressed heavily and finished with a 2-14 record. Whisenhunt could not afford to go through the motions of a rookie quarterback. It all started making perfect sense. Whisenhunt did not want a rookie quarterback, and Rivers wanted a new home with a familiar face (Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator for Rivers in 2013).
By now you know how this narrative ended; the Titans selected Mariota, the Chargers re-signed their franchise quarterback, and Whisenhunt was fired during the middle of the season. Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen wrote an interesting take this week, “What Could Have Been for Rivers and Mariota”: http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/17953641/nfl-2016-adam-schefter-chris-mortensen-week-9-notebook-chargers-traded-philip-rivers-draft-marcus-mariota
This now leads us to my next point, the Chargers are primed to address the future of their quarterback season following the 2016 season. If San Diego continues their downward spiral, they will be once again rewarded with a top 10 selection in next year's NFL Draft. If the season ended today, the Chargers would have the 8th pick. There is no guarantee the QB needy teams (Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago) ahead of the Chargers actually will select a signal caller. The logic for that reasoning would be that each of these teams would have to be comfortable enough with these quarterbacks to select over Texas A&M stud defensive end, Myles Garrett. That is not happening. The clear consensus is that Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer will be the first quarterback off the board in the 2017 NFL draft.
The next quarterback off the board is subject to debate, but UNC’s Mitch Trubisky is having a Carson Wentz-like ascension and is heavily favored to be the second QB selected in next year’s draft. That leaves Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. With no elite offensive tackle or wide receiver in next years draft (both a pressing need for San Diego), and the likelihood that the best safety, Jabrill Peppers, will be off the board before the Chargers make their pick, DeShaun Watson could be staring San Diego right in the face. Watson would be the best player available for San Diego, but would not make an immediate impact. Regardless of his ability to help the team in the now, the Chargers need to emulate the Dallas Cowboys, and have a succession plan for their elite, aging quarterback.
Rivers would be allowed to finish out his contract and his career as a Charger and Watson would be able to sit behind and learn from one of the best. The time is now for the Chargers to start planning life without their beloved Rivers, and what better way to do so than by selecting Deshaun Watson, a quarterback whose style has been compared to Marcus Mariota. Sound off, should San Diego select Watson if he is on the board, or address another pressing need and forge on with Rivers?