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Chargers quarterbacks: Better or worse in 2016?

A position-by-position look at the San Diego Chargers’ roster, and whether the team is better or worse off than they were last season.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Chargers return most of the same roster that went 4-12 in 2015. They did, however, make a few noteworthy free agent signings and they also benefited from picking at the top of each round thanks to their terrible 2015 record. So, they've at least had the opportunity to improve, and in some instances they clearly have. The plan, such as it is, is to review each position group and answer the question, "are the Chargers better or worse than they were in 2015?" Today, we start with the quarterback position.


  • Mike Bercovici
  • Kellen Clemens
  • Zach Mettenberger
  • Philip Rivers


Two of those names are obviously very familiar since they've been QB1 & QB2 for this team for going three years now. Two new names were added as an undrafted free agent and as a regular old unrestricted free agent.

Philip Rivers is obviously still the starting quarterback for this team. At the end of his career, at worst, he will have his number retired and will be part of the Chargers ring of honor. At best, he could find himself inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While he is arguably no longer at his peak, Rivers' physical abilities have not declined noticeably and he was still the 8th most productive quarterback in football last year despite playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and spending half the season without his best receiver. Add to that the return of Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator, and there's no suggestion that Rivers will be slowing down at all.

Kellen Clemens is a career backup quarterback and that career has stretched over a decade at this point. That's not bad when you consider the average length of an NFL career. Good for him, is what I'm saying. What I'm also saying is that he's never achieved replacement level production in any of those seasons, not even in the random small sample sizes he's made it onto the field for. Clemens is a known quantity and that quantity is plainly mediocre or worse. Rivers seems to like having him around, though, and that could be the deciding factor of who makes the team.

Former Titan Zach Mettenberger has a lot of the physical tools you look for in an NFL signal caller. He's also not very good at playing the position in spite of those tools. His reads are slow and often wrong. He tends to pat the ball and wait a beat or two too long before throwing over the middle of the field. This tends to result in interceptions and getting his receivers annihilated. Those are bad things. He has been in the league for a few years now and you would expect to see some progress being made by now if there was any chance of it happening. Thus far, progress hasn't arrived. He did play for Whisenhunt last year, though, so maybe the OC likes him. It's hard to say why if that's the case.

Mike Bercovici isn't a guy I (or anyone?) expected to challenge for a roster spot. He seemed like the classic camp arm. He's big enough and has enough arm that he can do an adequate quarterback impression. He wasn't particularly impressive at Arizona State. That said, through nearly two weeks of camp, he looks like the best of the backups. He gets in and out of the huddle quickly. He gets the guys lined. He makes his reads quickly. He gets the ball out quickly. He moves well enough. He still has untapped potential. Basically, he's the best you could realistically hope for in a backup quarterback.

The Chargers, like most NFL teams, only keep two quarterbacks on the roster these days. That means that Bercovici and Mettenberger will be competing with Clemens for the #2 spot. Who will win out? That's hard to say, but Clemens has to be the favorite.

Better or Worse?

Better. Even if the Chargers stick with Kellen Clemens over Mike Bercovici, Philip Rivers is in such a better position to succeed this year that the position group should have a higher level of success. And if the Chargers finally cut Clemens loose and go with the higher upside (and superior present) Bercovici, then it's not even close. And what if it's Mettenberger? Well, that's really not significantly different from Clemens, so that'd be a push in and of itself.