Although it used to be considered an anomaly, Tom Brady has almost single-handedly shifted the discussion of quarterback resiliency into an expectation of being able to play into and beyond a slinger’s 40th birthday. In many ways, it almost seems like the natural arms race that goes into any physical competition. In Track and Field, the 10-second barrier was the ultimate goal for runners until just about 30 years ago. As sports medicine improved, the physical limitations of the human body seemed to improve to make the impossible the expected.
Drew Brees, the former Charger, is also going strong well past the previous expiration date for franchise quarterbacks. Sports writers have now begged the question “do you think you’ll still play into your 40s?” to every franchise quarterback in the NFL, and the majority of them indicate that they will. Take the Steeler’s Big Ben, if you will. Just a year ago he was contemplating retirement. Suddenly, with a new offensive coordinator and a short window left for the “Killer B” pack to get to the promised land (Ben [Roethlisberger], [Antonio] Brown, [LeVeon] Bell, and I would also throw in [Chris] Boswell, as the Chargers know a thing or two about the differences a kicker makes), he’s ready to play for at least three more years.
The trend is catching on. Aaron Rodgers says that his minimum target is 40. It is not unreasonable to think that these comments are based on two things: Unusually high quality QB draft classes that have proven irreplacable (2004, I’m looking at you). The benching of Eli Manning last year showed that most teams are woefully under-prepared for the departure of a long-time franchise QB. Second, and more obviously, is that it has become expected for QBs to want to play well into their 40s, regardless of the physical limitations. I’m sure that Sam Bradford would answer the same way. It just doesn’t make business sense to say “yeah, I’m done at ____ years” unless it is clearly the end of a player’s final contract.
But that’s why Philip Rivers is making the news this week— he’s calling a spade a spade!
Philip Rivers tells @AlbertBreer he laughs when he hears Drew Brees and Tom Brady talk about playing into their mid-40s— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 6, 2018
"Y’all can have that. I have no desire to get there" https://t.co/zMc58fCtO2 pic.twitter.com/1UfpIFRODx
Philip Rivers recently confided to Albert Breer that he thinks playing into his 40s isn’t something he’s planning on. Rivers flat-out says that he’s ready to coach high school football as soon as he’s done with the NFL. Rivers turns 37 late this year, so one way or another it sounds like the Chargers had better have a solid plan within years that they could count on one hand.
“It could be two, my contract’s up in two, but I’d like to get in that new stadium,” Rivers continued. “Could it be four, five? I don’t know. I feel good. I don’t want to hang on, but I don’t feel like I’m there by any means right now. I want to stay aware, so when it does become that, I’ll know. And it’s a two-sided deal—they have to want me to still be here when it gets to that.”
As if to stoke the fire and then calm the inferno in one block quote, Rivers sets a clear goal for himself: playing in the new LA Stadium. The stadium doesn’t open until 2020 at the earliest. To achieve this goal, Rivers will have two options: Negotiate a contract extension (his current one ends after 2019’s season) or seek a new contract, also presumably with the Chargers.
In typical Rivers fashion (and no, we don’t mean bolo ties), he speaks frankly and humbly. He outright tells that his wishes are second to the team’s, and if they don’t want him any more, it’s not up for debate.
After playing one of his best seasons in the last ten years in 2017, it’s reasonable to think that the admiration is mutual. However, as Peyton Manning showed us as he exited to the sunset, the fall can be quick and ugly.
Of course, if that quick and ugly fall ends with a Superbowl win, that’s just fine by me.
-Jason “Wait..Is Every Uniform Wearer Actually a Cosplayer??” Michaels