It’s been said time and time again: the NFL is a league built upon the What-Have-You-Down-For-Me-Lately mantra. Whether you chalk it up to the relatively short sixteen-game schedule or an average career length of 3.3 years, there’s not a whole lot of game material for footballing media to dwell on, which leads into a culture predicated on overreactions and hot takes.
I mean, the main brunt of Sports Illustrated’s NFL coverage falls under their aptly-named column “The Monday Morning Quarterback.”
So, with that all being said, let’s talk about good ‘ole #17, Philip Rivers.
Just like the majority of you, I have suffered through the last several seasons of Chargers football. It’s been borderline unwatchable, save one maddeningly-consistent, highly-entertaining gunslinger by way of Decatur, Alabama.
That was the ultimate frustration—to see this all-league talent put up numbers while year in and year out, the team would crumble around him. Even worse, it took too long to acquire talent actually capable of competing, and now, we’re left with a ghost of that same all-league talent.
Again, I’ve watched the same games as you all. Even though Philip Rivers is my favorite sports figure ever, I’ve taken off the rose-colored glasses and acknowledged that the end of the run is near for the franchise quarterback.
Ruben echoed similar sentiments on this very blog not too long ago. It sucks. You pour so much time into your sports teams and players, only for them to chew up your collective emotions and spit them in your face.
I’m not here to say that the 36-year-old version of Philip Rivers is a Top Five Talent at the position. Hell, all signs point towards him coming nowhere near sniffing the vaunted Top Ten come January 2018.
But herein lies my point—why proclaim the end of Rivers while we still have 13 games left to play?
Again, I know it’s fun to overreact, and it’s fun to watch people overreact. If it wasn’t, Stephen A. Smith would be out of work, and Jordan Klepper wouldn’t have his own new show on Comedy Central.
(What? I’m not paid to plug “The Opposition.” I just think it’s a really funny idea and I’m showing some love for a hilarious and talented comedian.)
Yet the NFL season is short enough already. People have infamously declared players and teams done prematurely only for it to blow up in their faces. 2014 Patriots, anyone?
Phil has clearly regressed in recent years, with his infamous stinkers coming at a greater clip. He looks skittish in the pocket, and his classic sidearm special no longer has the same zip on it we’ve grown to love. And, of course, it’s hard to get behind a guy who’s led the league in interceptions two of the last three years.
In the past, many of his staunch defenders like myself have pointed at the coach, the roster, and the incredibly inept organization around him. Going into this season, I truly believed there was and is no longer a justifiable way to deflect the blame from Rivers.
Whether Anthony Lynn and Co. are an improvement, we don’t know at this point in time. What we do know is that the quarterback has legitimate weapons at wide receiver and tight end, and a talented three-down workhorse in the backfield. He finally has a good defense with a fearsome pass rush and a solid secondary. It truly is put-up-or-shut-up time.
After seeing the unofficially agreed-upon sentiment that Rivers is done all over the interwebs, I would like to say this: hold your horses. There’s more football to be played. Phil looked decent through two weeks; who’s to say the Chiefs game wasn’t just an aberration?
Also, this is a new coaching staff making adjustments on the fly. For all we know, we could soon see the return to 2013 form, an offense built on a beautiful combination of a strong power running game and a dink-and-dunk, screen-happy passing game. That formula carried Rivers to one of the best and most efficient years of his career, as he took home the Comeback Player of the Year Award and the team returned to the playoffs.
In other words, I’m looking at you, Ken Whisenhunt. Please, make that happen. Fingers crossed.
Last summer, everyone from East Coast to West sang the sad tale of one Joey Bosa. A contract dispute turned into missed practice, which snowballed into an injury and a delayed debut. A consensus existed that there was no way Bosa would perform up to expectations, and his whole career with the Chargers was in jeopardy.
I don’t wanna brag in a Hoyle-and-Sisti-esque fashion, but I took a fairly accurate stab at predicting the defensive end’s eventual 2016 campaign the week before he came back from injury. These two quotes explain the general thoughts behind the article pretty well:
The thing Bosa has to prove is that he can take an otherworldly college career and turn it into success in the NFL. He was the third overall pick for a reason...
...we have our first Top 5 pick since LT taking the field this weekend. Yeah, this season has sucked so far, and we still got three-quarters of it to go. But if Bosa’s first appearance in lightning bolts does not give you that excited, tingling, goosebumps feeling, I think you need to find a different team to root for.
Is Mike Williams on the same talent level of Bosa? I don’t think so. It also doesn’t help the guy’s case that he plays a position known for being a tough transition. But Tom Telesco saw something in Williams that prompted him to take him in the Top Ten, and we can’t rule out the Clemson product from providing an instant impact a la his 2016 counterpart. For all we know, the big-bodied receiver is exactly what Rivers needs, and he’ll open up the passing game by complementing the team’s diverse group of weapons in an effective fashion.
Or not. I don’t know how good Wiliams will be, and I don’t know if this past Sunday is the status quo for our current iteration of Philip Rivers. And should the quarterback continue to falter come Week 12, 13, 14, I’ll be all on the #TankForDarnold train. But for now, I’ll be reserving judgment for El Capitan, the one, and only Felipe Rios.
Besides, what options does the coaching staff really have? Throw Cardale Jones into the fire?
Quite simply, that would be the quickest way to lose the already-futile Fight For LA.
Nathan Graber-Lipperman is a die-hard Chargers fan that puts way too much time into his aforementioned fandom. He really likes his powder blue #17 jersey, and more than anything in the world, he just wants to see Philip Rivers hoist the Lombardi Trophy. You can follow him @nathangl99.